Apr 7, 2007
FDA Releases Final Rule on Nutrition Labeling

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, perhaps we should eat a bigger apple.

That seems to be a conclusion American consumers have reached.

One of the most noticeable changes in the Food and Drug Administration’s “final rule” on nutrition labeling for fruits and vegetables is an increase in the size of an average apple from 154 grams (5.5 ounces) to 242 grams (just over 8.6 ounces). The old portion size dates to 1975.

This change in size boosts the other figures for apples – calories go from 80 to 130, fiber from 21 grams to 34 and sugar from 16 grams to 25. By the new standard, that ounce of sugar per apple constitutes a fifth of a person’s daily intake requirements.

By comparison, other changes were relatively minor. Avocados may benefit because their fat level was reduced from 45 grams to 35. Lemon and nectarine fiber levels were doubled from 1 gram to 2, the potassium and fiber levels of pears were increased, strawberries have more sugar in the new standards, tangerines lost their sodium, broccoli carbohydrate fell from a low 10 grams to an even-lower 8, and the virtually nil calories in a 99-gram cucumber fell even more from 15 to 10.

Onions and radishes get more credit for their potassium content, and tomatoes get their sodium levels cuts from 35 milligrams to 20.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s final rule for voluntary nutrition labeling regulations for the 20 most frequently consumed raw fruits and 20 most frequently consumed vegetables was published in the July 25 Federal Register. In a table at the end, nutrition facts for each fruit or vegetable are summarized – listing calories, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, sugar, protein, vitamins A and C, sodium, potassium, calcium and iron.

The final rule becomes effective Jan. 1, 2008, but marketers can begin using the new values now if they choose.

According to the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), the industry asked for more time for sampling products at different times of the year, which would provide a more accurate reflection of the seasonal impact on nutrient content values. FDA encouraged the produce industry to continue to research nutrient values and submit new data to FDA for consideration in future updates but didn’t extend the time, PMA said.

The 20 most frequently consumed raw fruits are apples, avocadoes, bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, grapes, honeydew melons, kiwifruit, lemons, limes, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums, strawberries, sweet cherries, tangerines and watermelons.

The 20 most frequently consumed raw vegetables are asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, green (snap) beans, green cabbage, green onions, iceberg lettuce, leaf lettuce, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, radishes, summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Based on the changes in nutrition information, some produce items may no longer qualify for the same nutrient content claims as have been made previously, PMA said. It is assessing the impact of these changes on nutrient content claims.

The final rule also clarifies trans fat labeling requirements for the voluntary nutrition labeling of raw fruits and vegetables and fish. When nutrition information is provided for more than one raw fruit or vegetable, the listing of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol may be omitted if the following footnote is used: “Most fruits and vegetables provide negligible amounts of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.”

FDA said that, because of past acceptable compliance levels at store levels, nutrition labeling for raw fruits and vegetables will remain a voluntary program. Industry suppliers and retailers are encouraged to incorporate the new nutritional values into signage and packaging.

The updating in the official levels of nutrients is an on-going process that began in 1990, with FDA periodically proposing changes in the nutrient levels and giving the industry a fixed period during which to comment. FDA evaluates the comments and then posts a “final rule” that is in effect, usually for four years until the formal process begins all over again.

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