Washington, D.C.—The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is providing temporary flexibility regarding nutrition labeling of certain packaged foods in an effort to better facilitate the distribution of food during the COVID-19 crisis. Information can be found here: Guidance for Industry: Temporary Policy Regarding Nutrition Labeling of Certain Packaged Food During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.
Food manufacturers: The FDA said it does not intend to object to the sale of packaged food that is labeled for use in restaurants and lacks a Nutrition Facts label, provided that the food does not have any nutrition claims and that it contains other required label information, including (as applicable):
- a statement of identity
- an ingredient statement
- the name and place of business of the food manufacturer, packer, or distributor,
- net quantity of content
- allergen information required by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.
In addition, if retail packaging for certain food products is unavailable, FDA said it does not intend to object to the further production of food labeled for use in restaurants that is intended to be sold other than to restaurants until retail packaging is available.
For restaurants: The above guidelines also apply to those that want to sell packaged food to consumers directly, or to other businesses for sale to consumers.
The guidance is being implemented immediately, but it remains subject to comment according to the FDA”s good guidance practices.
UPDATE on Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels
FDA also announced that it intends to work cooperatively with manufacturers for the remainder of 2020 regarding using updated Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels. The agency said it will not focus on enforcement actions at this time. (The FDA previously announced that it would do so for the first six months following the January 1, 2020, compliance date.)
UPDATE on Food Suppy and Safety
In related news, on March 27, 2020, FDA released a consumed update: Food Safety and Availability During the Coronavirus Pandemic. The update addresses three common questions about food availability and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Is the U.S. food supply safe? “Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of the coronavirus,” FDA said, adding, “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but we don’t think this is the main way the virus spreads at this time.” Read the full response.
- Are there any food shortages? “There are currently no nationwide shortages of food, for people or pets, although in some cases you may find that certain foods at your grocery store are temporarily out of stock,” FDA reported. “This is mostly because customers are buying more than usual, and not because there is less food.”
- What measures is the government taking to ensure that we remain able to address foodborne illness outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic? “With respect to foodborne pathogens (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, or Hepatitis A), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA, and the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service continue to work with state and local partners to investigate foodborne illnesses and outbreaks,” the agency said.
Read the full FDA responses, along with “Three Things You and Your Family Can Do to Help Stay Safe,” here.