Despite a pandemic and a fierce presidential election cycle, 2020 was a very active year for food regulations. As with everything 2020, COVID-19 issues dominated the regulatory landscape as federal, state and local governments as well as private companies worked individually and collectively to assure an uninterrupted, safe food supply. Notable actions included designating the food and agriculture sector workforce as essential and the development of protocols for worker safety and workplace sanitation. More recently, COVID-19 vaccination distribution and availability have dominated the discussion. The year also brought other regulatory actions from FDA on both nutrition/labeling and food safety.
On nutrition/labeling, the agency finalized guidance on the new nutrition facts panel guidance and allulose labeling and its rule regarding “gluten-free” claims on fermented foods, reopened the discussion of modernizing the standards of identity and issued draft guidance on sesame allergen labeling.
In the food safety area, FDA issued draft guidance on lab accreditation, traceability requirements for certain foods and ramped its “New Era of Smarter Food Safety.” FDA continues to demonstrate concern regarding levels of milk protein in dark chocolate. USDA provided guidance on testing methods for bioengineered (BE) food disclosure and the addition of new BE variants to its list including BE sugar cane. Prior to the focus shifting to COVID-19 issues, regulatory agencies and Congress were focused on initiatives regarding hemp and cannabidiol following its removal from the Schedule 1 list under the 2018 Farm Bill.
2020 was also a year for new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Of note for the confectionery industry, recommendations for added sugar intake remain at 10 percent of total calories, despite the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to lower that level to six percent.
Outside of the US, the food regulatory and policy world was focused on new front-of-pack labeling requirements in Mexico and other Latin/South American countries as well as advertising and sales bans of “unhealthy” food in the UK. Similarly, state and local actions are focused on high-sugar foods including a retail check out ban of soda, candy and other treats in Berkeley, CA. 2021 is poised to be a very busy regulatory year as the Biden Administration refocuses on nutrition and health issues.