Ordinarily I find government plans of this type to be soporific but this one is especially well written and well thought out (with some caveats).


The report is a statement of FDA commitment to what it is going to do in the next four years in food areas that affect people and animals.  It includes many promises, among them this one of particular interest: 

Program Goal 4: Provide accurate and useful information so consumers can choose a healthier diet and reduce the risk of chronic disease and obesity

Objective 1. Update the Nutrition Facts label.

– Publish proposed rules updating the nutrition facts label and serving sizes [OK, but by when?].

– Publish final rules updating the nutrition facts label and serving sizes [Ditto].

Objective 2.  Implement menu and vending machine labeling regulations.

– Publish final menu and vending machine labeling regulations [OK, but by when?].

– Collaborate with states, localities and other partners to ensure high rates of compliance.

Objective 3.  Improve consumer access to and use of nutrition information.

– Explore front‐of‐pack nutrition labeling opportunities [Explore?  See comment below].

– Collaborate with public/private sector parties on nutrition education [Collaborate?  See comment below].

– Implement updated standards for the labeling of pet food including nutrition and ingredient information [How about a Pet Facts label for pet foods that someone might actually be able to understand?].

– Implement standards for animal feed ingredients.

– Publish final rule defining and permitting use of the term “gluten free” in the labeling of foods.

Goal-setting processes usually include dates by which the objectives are to be completed.  These do not, which suggests that the FDA can continue to delay action until 2016. 

I also do not understand what is meant by “Explore front‐of‐pack nutrition labeling opportunities.”  Explore?  The FDA has already sponsored two Institute of Medicine reports on front-of-pack labeling.  Does this mean the agency is ignoring them and intends further research?

And “Collaborate with public/private sector parties on nutrition education?”  What does the FDA have in mind for the content of such education?  You can bet that no collaborative campaign can focus on “don’t drink your calories.” 

FDA needs to deliver on these items, and sooner rather than later.  This year?  I’m not counting on it.


 Originally published under the headline “FDA releases strategic plan for 2012-2016,” this commentary first appeared May 2, 2012 on Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog. Reposted with permission.

  • I am sorry to see that these “plans” amount in my view to nothing more than window-dressing. Pampering the consumers’ obsession with being 200% informed by labels (who reads them?!)does not improve the state of food safety – reported widely by your excellent publication! The reported incidents are rarely – if ever – caused by mislabelled food, but by gross negligence of food hygiene.
    Why doesn’t the FDA and USDA and FSIS and… at long last join forces to enforce food safety standards (not certificates, please, but actual implementation measures!)in the catering and processing industry?

  • John

    Reto, I read EVERY label every time I purchase a new product i’m unfamiliar with. If YOU chose ignorance over knowledge, then that is YOUR problem. Those of us who prefer to be informed and made aware of what is going into our bodies DEMAND that labels provide as much information as possible. The food you eat literally BECOMES your body. The molecules and chemicals in the food physically become a part of your body’s cells and organs. You are literally building and altering your body with the food you eat. I pity those of you who blindly ingest all sorts of franken-foods, oblivious to the guinnea-pig experiment you are a part of.
    The label should not only list the ingredients, but also ALL processing aides, processes, equipment used, methods used, source/country of origin of EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL ingredient/aide, packagin/lining materials, gmo/irradiation/etc, and the date of production. All of this info would allow a non-ignorant consumer to draw a very sound conclusion as to the potential for food safety issues.

  • husna aijaz

    The objective 3 of Nutrition Education could save the country millions, as it a preventative approach to Food Safety. Intensive training in food safety at all appropriate levels will save millions of dollars that Americans spent in health care costs every year to treat food borne illness,food related allergies qnd hospital emergency room visits.
    I agree with John’s comment that consumers need to know about the source of every ingredient in the food label including the processing aids, equipment used, processes etc.