People shop in a Food Town grocery store in Houston. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images)
The Trump administration will encourage the food industry to reduce salt in processed foods and revise some food labels to make them easier to understand, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb
The FDA will also push ahead Obama-era plans that require calorie labeling on restaurant menus and new "Nutrition Facts" panels on food products, two of the rules that the agency has delayed.
The wait had alerted consumers to public health advocates and advocates who had long feared that the diet would suffer from a White House campaigning for deregulation of the industry and criticizing concerns about childhood obesity. But in a speech that should signal that nutrition is still a priority at the FDA by President Trump, Gottlieb said his agency would launch a comprehensive, multi-year package of nutrition initiatives this summer, with the goal of improving health conditions such as obesity combat heart disease
"I commit to advancing our work in nutrition as a tool to reduce health disparities Improve the lives of all Americans, "said Gottlieb to a gathering of industry officials, consumer advocates and academics in Washington," and help every family live more free from the burden of preventable diseases. "
FDA initiatives announced Thursday These are part of what Gottlieb called the agency's Nutrition Innovation Strategy. Many of them continue programs begun under the Obama administration, such as menu marking and sodium reduction. For example, in 2016, the FDA announced plans to entice the food industry to cut salt and to release voluntary targets for two- and ten-year sodium reductions for more than 150 foods, including snacks and frozen pizza. Although not required, the reduction targets would put considerable public pressure on food manufacturers.
These plans halted objections from food industry representatives and some lawmakers in Congress who argued that it was difficult to cut salt from recipes and science on sodium and health is unclear. Earlier this month, the Salt Institute, an industry group, asked the FDA to rethink this science as it develops the 2020 nutritional guidelines for Americans.
But on Thursday, Gottlieb loudly announced that the agency would work to reduce sodium in the diet. The FDA will release new short-term sodium reduction targets in 2019, Gottlieb said, and will continue to advocate longer-term reductions to prevent "single [most] effective public health measures related to nutrition." Health problems associated with overly salted diets, such as high blood pressure.
Americans eat an estimated 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day on average, although the government recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams.
"I can not discuss a meaningful nutritional initiative without exploring what can be done to promote the reduction of sodium in food," said Gottlieb.
The FDA is also committed to other policies of the Obama era. On May 8, Gottlieb said chain restaurants and grocery stores need to display calories and other nutritional information on their menus, following a one-year delay granted by the agency on behalf of the industry last year, shortly after Trump's inauguration. 19659014] Food producers will also introduce the new Nutrition Facts Panel by January 2020, which includes information on adding sugars and giving calories in bold. The FDA postponed the panel, which was backed by former First Lady Michelle Obama, after industry groups complained that they did not have enough time to make the changes. But Gottlieb hinted that there would be no further extensions as some food companies have already introduced the new panels.
"Consumers have access to an updated label that is based on current scientific evidence and provides more information to choose healthy eating," he said.
In addition to the Obama policy, Gottlieb is thinking about a new nutritional policy. The Authority is discussing a pre-packaging voluntary labeling system that would give consumers clearer information about the health of a product.
The FDA also assesses the use of health and science marketing claims by food manufacturers, including the term "healthy," and will seek to clarify ingredient information, Gottlieb said. Food companies may soon print "Vitamin B6" instead of "Pyridoxine" on their labels.
And the agency could rethink its rules on the content of processed foods to make it easier for companies to make their prescriptions healthier. The current regulations require that cheese, for example, contains a certain amount of sodium, which makes salt reduction difficult.
Gottlieb emphasized that many of the new initiatives are designed to encourage food companies to voluntarily make their products healthier and to reward those who do. This is slightly different from the approach taken by the Obama administration, experts in the audience said, but they described themselves as relieved and reassured that the Trump FDA seems to be pursuing similar goals.
Margo Wootan, Vice President of Nutrition at the Science for the Public Interest Center, has criticized the delays in menu labeling and the new Nutrition Facts Panel, as well as a decision by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last year to approve the planned sodium reductions for school lunches move. She is one of a number of public health advocates who warned that an industry-friendly administration that wants to reverse regulation could cause serious damage.
Some advocates have criticized the FDA for selling its food in December Advisory Committee, an independent expert panel that advised the agency on new food safety and nutrition issues. And others have accused the agency of giving some companies a pass on sugar stains to explain to fine print why products such as maple syrup and cranberry juice have so high levels of added sugar.
But on Thursday, Wootan She said she was "encouraged" by Gottlieb's remarks and optimistic about the direction of the FDA. Next comes the task of implementing these ideas in accordance with current science, she said.
"This commissioner seems to have an interest and understanding of the importance of nutrition," said Wootan. "Progressive" is a relative term, but I think [he is] compared to what we have in other agencies.
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