NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New FDA Nutrition Label Rules: All Cost, No Benefit?

November 3, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to require updates to nutritional labels, a move that many critics say is all cost and no benefit.

Sean Parnell, research fellow at the Heartland Institute, says that the nutrition facts labels American consumers are used to have been on food for more than two decades. According to the FDA, the labels are out of date. For example, because Americans eat more food today than they used to, serving sizes often do not match up with a consumer's actual eating habits. The agency wants calories and serving sizes to be more visible on food packages, and it wants producers to include a new line on nutrition labels that identifies "added sugars" in a product. Added sugars are targeted by the FDA as a way to reduce sugar intake, but critics say the new label might only steer consumers toward other foods that have higher sugar content, just not added sugars.

The agency believes that the changes will improve public health, but Parnell writes that it has done little to back up that claim, despite the massive cost -- $2.3 billion -- associated with the rule. Not only will those costs likely be transferred to consumers in the form of higher food prices, but the costs may be underestimated. Recent research by Sherzod Abdukadirov of the Mercatus Center and Robert Scharff of Ohio State University highlighted the fact that the FDA did not assess a number of costs when it looked at expenses associated with the rule. For example, the FDA did not look at how much it will cost those in the food industry to change package sizes, for suppliers to keep records of added sugars or the costs of government enforcement.

Source: Sean Parnell, "Value of New Nutritional Labels Questioned," Heartland Institute, October 30, 2014. 


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