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Breaking News: FDA Nutrition Facts Label Update Deadline Extended by 18 Months

By BLUE Software

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it has delayed the compliance deadline for rules that require manufacturers to update the Nutrition Facts label and serving size on food packaging, giving companies another 18 months to comply.  This means compliance dates for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales are now being pushed from July 26 to January 1, 2020, while compliance dates for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will move from July 26, 2019, to January 1, 2021.

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said companies need more time: “This extension on the Nutrition Facts label regulation will help ensure that we provide the food industry with guidance to help them modernize their Nutrition Facts labels and that industry has sufficient time to complete and print updated Nutrition Facts labels,” he said.

While this extension may be perceived as a “win” for consumer products manufacturers, the reality is that several brands have already recognized the increasing importance of purchase drivers such as health and wellness and product data transparency, and therefore they are changing their label data to better meet these consumer needs – regardless, and well in advance, of any government regulations. For example, ConAgra Foods and Campbell’s now disclose ingredients made using genetically modified organisms.

Changing Labels: It’s More Complex than it Seems

Early adopters of the Nutrition Facts label update can use the new label as a way to claim a position of strength against their competition, but while the rewards may be great, the journey can be difficult.  Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as updating one Nutrition Facts panel and sending it to the production team.  For starters, chances are your product comes in a range of sizes.  Cereal, for example, can come in a 12-ounce box, a 21-ounce box, a 12 pack of 1.3-ounce cups, and more.  Adding to the complexity: you have multiple manufacturing sites.  And of course, there are cartons, inserts, and other components to consider.

There are also a number of people involved in the labeling process, from those who provide the nutrition ingredient lists… to those who provide a legal review… to those who provide branding and design… and the list goes on.  In fact, some of our enterprise clients report a single label may be “touched” as many as 200 times before it ever sees the printer.  Keeping that many stakeholders in sync and on schedule is challenging.

Finally, the odds are good that at the same time you’re changing the nutrition label, there will be another label-changing event that takes place.  Case in point: California passed Proposition 65, requiring manufacturers to publish a list of chemicals “known to the State to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity” and prohibiting a manufacturer from knowingly exposing any individual to a listed chemical without first providing a “clear and reasonable warning” on the label.

Simplify the Complexity: Label and Artwork Management

The first step to make product label changes such as the Nutrition Facts update easier is to get organized with a Label and Artwork Management solution.  A good Label and Artwork Management solution will feature robust Workflow Management tools, allowing you to track a project like a Nutrition Facts label update throughout its lifespan.  Each time there’s a label “touch,” the person responsible will receive a real-time alert.  Also, a project’s progress becomes more transparent, allowing you to catch obstacles early and avoid missed deadlines (even if you do have another 18 months to comply!).

A Label and Artwork Management solution will also reduce the number of label reviews with online collaborative proofing.  Multiple stakeholders can simultaneously access a single platform to view the label and perform critical proofing functions.  For example, your approvers can automatically compare the new Nutrition Facts panel to the old without having to email versions from one approver to the next or pass hard copies of the new label around the office for review.  Instead, your team can simultaneously proof online, and in real time, while creating an auditable trail of feedback.  Add the power to approve the new label once and then execute approved changes across multiple stock-keeping units (SKUs), and now your teams are really productive!

Finally, a good Label and Artwork Management solution will provide you with a Digital Asset Manager for all label assets that your internal and external team members can access at anytime from anywhere.  This repository will be your “single source of truth,” housing the latest versions of key label assets such as ingredient lists and featuring easy-to-use filters, searches, and sorts for quick asset retrieval.

Get Started Today

BLUE Software has developed a comprehensive list of Label and Artwork Management user requirements for packaged foods companies, including the features highlighted above.  Download our sample requirements document to jumpstart your label update process and prepare for future regulatory changes.

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