In response to announcement by the Center for Science in the Public Interest of its intention to file a petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for additional food ingredient labeling requirements, Rhona Applebaum, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs for the National Food Processors Association, made the following statement:

"FDA already requires that food labels provide the health, nutrition and safety information needed for consumers to make informed choices. Moreover, FDA has ample existing authority to take enforcement action against misleading label claims.

"The product names, pictures and flavor descriptors on packaging are there to attract the consumer's attention and to describe the product and its characterizing flavor or taste. Year after year, consumer surveys show taste is the number one factor for consumer food choices. To find out about product contents, consumers should turn to the ingredient declaration and the Nutrition Facts panel, which contain all the information they need to make an informed decision.

"Mandatory information on food labels should be limited to that which is needed for health and safety purposes. The new requirements sought by CSPI -- including percentage ingredient labeling -- do not fit that description.

"U.S. labeling rules already provide for voluntary declaration of percentage of ingredients. However, mandatory percentage ingredient labeling can prove difficult and costly. It limits food processors' flexibility to source different grades and varieties of ingredients by locking the company into exact quantities declared on the label. Limiting a company's flexibility in sourcing ingredients can increase the cost to produce food.

"Consumers look to food labels for important health and safety information concerning nutrition, food allergy and safe food handling for certain products. We think these health and safety issues are the appropriate focus for food labeling."

NFPA is the voice of the $460 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.