Bakery Groups Oppose Many Labeling Changes

Three grain-based food industry organizations sent joint comments to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) opposing several advanced notices of proposed rulemaking that would give more prominence to calories on food labels.
In a late June filing with the FDA, The American Bakers Association, Grain Foods Foundation and the Wheat Foods Council noted that they oppose the concept of a “starburst” or flag on the principal display panel giving greater prominence to calories. The groups said such a display would distract consumers from reading the Nutrition Facts Panel. Moreover, the labeling change would distort the consumer’s overall nutrition perception of nutrient dense foods.
Focus groups conducted by the FDA Obesity Working Group (OWG), which made suggestions to the agency in a report entitled “Calories Count,” showed that heightening the prominence of calories on packages could mislead consumers on the actual nutrition value of the product. Consumers may avoid some beneficial nutritionally dense foods because they contain a higher amount of calories per serving.
The bakery groups also believe that increasing the font size or bolding the calorie listing was not a feasible solution to addressing obesity. At the same time, such packaging changes, which would cost from $500 to $3,000 per stock-keeping unit (SKU), could cost the average baker with 2,000 SKUs upwards of $1 million to complete.
Moreover, the baking coalition opposed the listing of Percent Daily Value for calories. Previous research indicated that consumers either don’t understand the relevance of Percent Daily Value or they thought it was not relevant to them because they don’t follow a 2,000-calorie diet.
However, the groups supported eliminating the “Calories from Fat” listing on the Nutrition Facts Panel because simplifying the panel “would only serve to aid both consumers and the food industry.”
In separate comments filed in June, the three organizations stressed that information on serving sizes, calories and nutrition information be made easy to understand in a format that most Americans comprehend.
For example, most consumers don’t differentiate between serving sizes and recommend servings by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guidance System. Moreover, many recommended amounts come in ounces. Consumers will have a hard time understanding the concept of grain foods in terms of ounces rather than more conventional household measures, such as slices of bread.
The industry organizations also opposed efforts to update serving sizes to reflect the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs). Consumers are eating more than ever before. If FDA were to update the RACCs to reflect current consumption data, the larger portions could lead to consumers to think that it’s acceptable to eat those larger portions and possibly interpret the data as permission to eat more than what is considered healthy under normal dietary conditions.
Finally, the groups commented on side-by-side labeling of single-serve packages that are normally consumed in one sitting. In some cases, putting the nutritional information for a serving size along with the information for a full package may be appropriate. In other cases, the nutrition labeling for a common weight of food, such as a hamburger bun, would be more meaningful.
The comments recommended that FDA proceed with dual, side-by-side labeling on a voluntary basis as long as it is not made mandatory.
Long Co. Conference to Address Consumer Trends
The Long Co. will discuss lifestyle trends that are directly influencing consumer demands at its annual conference, scheduled for September 16-18 in Chicago.
Topics of discussion include identifying product opportunities to reach the new health-conscious consumer, product ideas to meet increasing Hispanic consumer demand, tips on managing government safety inspections and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid Food Guidance System.
Among those speaking will be Judi Adams, president of the Grain Foods Foundation, which has been instrumental in the promotion of grain-based foods this year.
In addition, Thomas Kuk, president of the American Society of Baking, will discuss effective leadership skills and strategies designed to motivate employees at all levels.
Moreover, Long Co. members will share their ideas on new products for today’s health-conscious consumers.
For more information, contact The Long Co. at 1-312-726-4606, ext. 253.
ABA Works on Laser Printing for Bread Bags
To streamline costs in the packaging area, the American Bakers Association (ABA) has started an initiative with its member bakers and packaging suppliers to develop a system that uses laser printing on flexible packages, such as bread and bun bags.
Already, laser equipment is being used in many bakeries on boxes, and having one set of printing machines makes sense from a maintenance perspective. Additionally, bakers are using laser printers to put product sell-by dates and other information on cardboard boxes and other packaging materials. Using laser printers on bread bags could streamline the packaging process, minimize maintenance and increase efficiency, the association notes.
Under one scenario, laser printing would begin with the line adding a patch of white or colored ink to the bag. The laser would then change the color of the patch of ink, creating a readable message.
A conference call took place in May to bring together bakers and suppliers who have an interest in meeting the goal of being able to use laser printing on flexible film packaging, and in particular, on bread bags.
During the discussion, the suggestion was made that it may be possible that the bagged bread moving along the moving conveyor could be controlled enough for the laser to mark the bag.  
The ABA is coordinating with suppliers to have test bags printed. It will then work with laser suppliers and bakers to conduct tests in bakeries. After proving that the system is technically viable, the association will work with the group to examine potential marketing concerns.
Consumers: Stop Telling Us What to Eat
Here’s a little bit of advice for nutritionists, diet gurus, consumer advocates and food companies. Just shut up and stop telling us what to eat.
Yes, one-fourth of consumers are totally fed up of others telling them what they’re supposed to eat, according to a survey by Porter Novelli, a New York public-relations firm. Another 20% are completely confused about what foods are good for them and what they should try to avoid, according to the survey released at the Institute of Food Technologists show held in New Orleans in mid-July.
Moreover, consumers are not only annoyed, but they have become cynical as well, the survey indicated. Most of them simply don’t trust or believe what the so-called nutrition experts are saying today. In fact, nearly 80% of those surveyed believe that nutrition messages and trends will be different five years from now than from what the experts are telling them today.