Federal updates from ABA: Nutritional labeling and labor policy issues
All federal food policy is based on the recommendations stemming from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The American Bakers Association (ABA) leads the Grain Chain, an organization of 10 groups from grain growers and millers, as well as bakers and others who have an interest in growing grain consumption. On behalf of the Grain Chain, ABA is calling for an additional whole grain serving, which would mean a total of seven servings of grain daily for Americans. Research overwhelmingly touts the benefits of grain consumption, and we are excited to present that scientific evidence to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Grains are a nutrient-dense, sustainable, plant-based food, and we are hopeful the committee will recognize the importance of this food group in the American diet. Unfortunately, consumer data shows that Americans are significantly falling short on their consumption of whole grains. Getting an additional serving of whole grains in the recommendations would be a big step toward addressing this nutrient of deficiency in the American diet.
Nutrition Facts. The FDA has granted food manufacturers a six-month enforcement discretion for the new Nutrition Facts Labeling (NFL) rules. The baking industry has always been transparent with its customers and consumers. Product labeling is an important component to helping customers and consumers to make informed choices about the products they buy to feed their families. ABA—as co-chair of the Food & Beverage Issue Alliance (FBIA)—requested enforcement discretion for the new NFL rules. Because of this request, and others like it, the FDA will work cooperatively with manufacturers to meet the new requirements and will not focus on enforcement actions regarding the new NFL requirements for the first 6 months following the January 1, 2020 compliance date.
“Natural” and “healthy” labeling. A “Healthy Food” label proposal is expected to come out from FDA by the end of 2019. The FDA has indicated that there will also be some “natural food” language. However, it is unclear how specific that would be. We heard from now-former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb that the FDA would also couple this “Healthy Food” definition with an icon, likely to include the FDA’s logo.
Final overtime regulation rule. A final rule regarding the overtime regulation issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) has addressed and incorporated concerns expressed throughout the rulemaking process by ABA. On September 24, DOL issued its final rule increasing the earnings thresholds necessary to exempt executive, administrative, or professional employees from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, typically referred to as “time and a half.”
The final rule, effective on January 1, 2020, will: raise the “standard salary level” from the currently enforced level of $455 to $684 per week (equivalent to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker); raise the total annual compensation level for “highly compensated employees (HCE)” from the currently enforced level of $100,000 to $107,432 per year; allow employers to use non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) that are paid at least annually to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level, in recognition of evolving pay practices; and, abandon an annual adjustment to the minimum salary threshold.