Blog: Dean BestUS food agency hints at direction of travel with "policy roadmap"

Dean Best | 17 January 2018

It's light on specific details but a new "strategic policy roadmap" for 2018 from the US Food and Drug Administration should give manufacturers a sense of where the agency could be looking to act this year.

The FDA has outlined four "priority areas" it says will be "the focus of additional policy activity" in 2018.

One of the four is titled Empower consumers to make better and more informed decisions about their diets and health; and expand the opportunities to use nutrition to reduce morbidity and mortality from disease.

The agency says its goals in this area are to "reduce preventable death and disease caused by poor nutrition by ensuring that consumers have access to accurate, useful information to make healthy food choices" and to "foster [the] development of healthier food options".

The roadmap says, this year, the FDA plans to provide guidance on two major pieces of regulations to concern the US food sector in recent years - the implementation of new menu labelling rules and the updating of the Nutrition Facts label, both of which have had their opponents within industry.

However, the document also hints at new news. The agency plans to "initiate a new, comprehensive action plan encompassing steps FDA will take to advance policies that better leverage nutrition and diet as ways to reduce morbidity and mortality from disease".

The steps under consideration include:

- revising the requirements for certain existing food label claims such as 'healthy'

- creating "a more efficient review system" for evaluating health claims on food labels

-  modernising "certain standards of identity", which the agency says has the aim of addressing "current barriers to the development of healthier products, while making sure consumers have accurate information about the foods they eat". The FDA plans to consult on what standards to prioritise.

- providing new opportunities to make ingredient information more helpful to consumers

- "advancing guidance" on dietary sodium reduction

Speaking to just-food, the FDA said: "Although this is the first Roadmap document that the agency has issued, the agency often publicly shares its strategic policy goals. In 2014, we issued the FDA Strategic Priorities 2014-18 document which offered a framework for five strategic priorities – regulatory science, globalisation, safety and quality, smart regulation, and stewardship. We have made significant progress advancing many of the goals and strategies outlined in that document.

"The agency will communicate publicly as we are able to share additional information about guidances and policies mentioned in the roadmap."

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