A small band of angry bakers gathered at a House subcommittee hearing yesterday to blast the Food and Drug Administration for issuing new labeling requirements they say will increase prices and drive independent bakers out of business.
Starting January 1, all packaged foods must have labels that list the chemical names of the ingredients used, unless the common or usual name has been approved by the FDA.
But the bakers says the change in labels will confuse consumers by replacing the names of known ingredients with "scary sounding" chemical terms and will deprive bakers of the flexibility they need to alter incredients as production conditions dictate.
In testimony before the Small Business Committee's special problems subcommittee, Simon S. Jackel, a research scientist with a bakers' cooperative, questioned why, for example, the new labels must list "Thiamine Hydrochloride" rather than the better understood "Vitamin B1."
William G. Botty, president of the Independent Bakers Cooperative, a group accounting for 45 per cent of U.S. wholesale bread production, said that leavening or baking powder will now be known as "sodium aluminum pyrophosphate, glucono-deltalactone, or similar eminous chemical words." He asked if clarity is served by this "ridiculous change?"
Howard Pippin, chief of the Guidelines and the Compliance Research Branch of the FDA, said in a telephone interview that the FDA has not yet responded to the bakers' complaints.
But the said the change was required because "it was our understanding that the consumer was interested and wanted to know what was in his food."
The FDA-imitiated label changes were first proposed in the Federal Register in June, 1974, and published in final form January 6, 1976. FDA spokesmen say the bakers should have complained then.
But the bakers say they have complained to the FDA several times and finally asked for the committee hearing because they got no response. Botty was particularly upset because the regulations were issued without a hearing.
John H. Fox, of the W. E. Long Co., independent Bakers Cooperative, which has 66 members and annual sales of more than $600 million, called the label change an "economic catastrophe." He said one minor ingredient change to conform to the new rules could cost thousands of dollars in packaging expenses. He said the small baker can ill afford the increased packaging inventory required and does not have the flexibility to recover the way large bakery operations can.T"The end result may we'll be the accelerated declize of independent wholesale bakies in this county . . .' Fox said. "And poor Mrs. Consumer will end up with a higher priced bread and a higher food hill, plus a label that few, if any, will understand or need."
The bakers want Congress or th FDA to modify the requirement so they can send the same information to retailers rather than put if on the lables.
Subcommittee Chairman Andrew Ireland (D-Fla.) said another hearing will be held in early August to discuss the problem with the FDA.
Pippin said the agency has received similar complaints from soft drink bottlers, vegetable protein manufacturers and cheese makers.