Mandatory sodium labeling for food packages that carry nutrition labeling has been delayed a year by the Food and Drug Administration. The regulations, which were scheduled to go into effect by July 1 of this year, called for mandatory sodium labeling for manufacturers who disclose other nutritional properties of their foods.
The regulations, which also set criteria for the claims "very low sodium," "low sodium," "sodium free," "reduced sodium" and "unsalted" on package labels, are now scheduled to take effect on July 1, 1986.
FDA spokesman Jim Greene said the agency received 66 requests from manufacturers, supermarket chains and canners (Kraft, Giant Food, Grand Union, Dole and Castle & Cooke among them) asking for an extension. The requests often indicated that these companies had stockpiles of labels from "a lot of slower moving items," Greene said. If the manufacturers were unable to use their existing label inventories, the cost of new labels would possibly have been passed on to the consumer, Greene said.
The original regulations stated that companies could be considered for extensions on a case-by-case basis, said Greene, but the agency felt that an across-the-board extension would "be simpler and more productive" instead of "wasting the agency's manpower" by evaluating each request.
Bruce Silverglade, legal affairs director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the extension represents "a dangerous precedent" because it "shows that the FDA is willing to capitulate" upon industry request. Approximately 70 extension letters is a small percentage of the 3,500 companies subject to the regulation, said Silverglade, and an agency as large as the FDA should be equipped to handle them individually.