Although nutrition labeling has been around for quite some time in the US and other parts of the world, did you know that it was only made mandatory for packaged foods in Canada in 2007? The history of nutrition labeling is full of food legislations and all kinds of administrations passing acts and amendments – very interesting stuff, especially if you’re pursuing food quality training.
Nutrition labeling has certainly come a long way. Here’s a few examples of some of the biggest moments that affect the way we decide what we want to eat – and how the industry goes about monitoring quality and safety.
1990: Nutrition Labelling and Education Act (NLEA) is Passed
In 1990, the NLEA came into effect and was regulated by the FDA, making the US the first nation to require that all processed foods disclose full nutritional information. This new law also set standards for nutrition claims such as “light” and “low fat”. Students pursuing regulatory affairs certification will recognize this emphasis on clarifying and standardizing labels as similar to rules drug developers must follow when making claims about new pharmaceutical products.
Some of the major reasons for the NLEA’s enactment (which took a couple of years) grew out of a general concern for the link between diet and disease, especially heart disease and cancer. US public health authorities have estimated that as much as one third of all cases of heart disease and cancer in the US are caused by diets that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and low in fiber.
1995: AHA Heart Check Symbol
In 1995, the American Heart Association (AHA) started a food certification program, which included the AHA Heart Check Symbol – designed to help consumers make “heart healthy”, informed choices about the food they buy. The certification requirements are simple – low in cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium for anyone over age 2.
2002: The National Organic Program (NOP)
With a growing focus on healthy eating, initiatives to abolish processed foods from our diets grew over the years. Eager to cash in on the trend, many food companies claimed to be “all natural” when in fact they weren’t. The NOP was enacted to restrict the use of the term “organic” to certified organic food producers. Certification is handled by non-profit, state and private agencies approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Quality control courses outline the criteria that defines natural health and biological practices used in many industries.
2004: The Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act
The passage of this act required labeling of any food that contains traces of: nuts, soybeans, cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, and wheat.
PepsiCo launched Smartspot in 2004 – designating the “more nutritious” of its products with a big, green stamp on the front of the packaging. Baked chips vs. fried chips, is one example. From then on, food companies launched all kinds of similar initiatives, displaying the more sensible, healthy choices that are offered from within their product lines:
- 2005: Kraft launches Sensible Solutions
- 2005: President’s Choice launches Blue Menu
- 2006: Hannaford Brothers supermarket chain implements Guiding Stars healthy ranking system
- 2007: Kellogg’s Launches Nutrition at a Glace labeling system
The list goes on. In 2008, several companies merged to promote Smart Choices – a standardized nutritional benchmark for consumer information. The Smart Choices stamp includes calories per serving and servings per package information.
What do you think has made the biggest impact on nutrition labeling over the last few decades?