Anti-GMO Labeling Law is passed by U.S. House

Anit-GMO's Legislation

As you may have seen in the news, this recently passed house bill would prevent mandatory GMO labeling. Legislation would bar states and local government from requiring labeling on products that include genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This bill is now headed to the U.S. Senate. If passed, it would null and void labeling laws already passed in three states: Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.

Many other states have proposed similar legislation to require food industries to label their GMO products. California and Washington State are very interested in helping to defeat anti-GMO proposals.

Supporters claim that GMOs are proven safe. Even the largest food companies say GMO foods are safe and that labels would be misleading. They believe the laws around the country would make things expensive for the manufactures and confusing for consumers.

Opponents stated that more than 60 other countries require labeling of GMO foods and consumers have the right to know what their food is made of. Why should the U.S. be any different?

Here is what some of the Representatives had to say:

• “We cannot continue to keep Americans in the dark about the food they eat,” Democrat Rep. Peter DeFazio said, according to Food Safety News.

• An article on cbsnews.com states “The reality is, biotechnology has time and time again proved safe,” the bill’s sponsor, Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, said as debate began. “We should not raise prices on consumers based on the wishes of a handful of activists.”

• “It (the bill) makes it impossible for people to know what they are purchasing and eating. It is an attack on transparency,’ said Representative John Conyers Jr., a Democrat, in floor debate, according to CNBC.

• According to Reuters, Representative Jim McGovern said the following in an interview about his opposition to the bill, “Poll after poll shows the majority of Americans want to know if their food contains GMOs. I have this radical idea we ought to give the American people what they want.”

• According to CNBC, Representative G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat, said the bill would require regulators to examine the safety profile of new GMO foods, replacing a voluntary consultation process, and set a national standard for voluntary GMO labeling.

Labeling on a federal level makes GMO labeling completely voluntary. The United States Agriculture Department has offered a new government certification and labeling for non- genetically modified foods. For more on this certification consider reading the article “GMO-Free Certification.”

Representing more than 300 food companies, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has been a key player aiming to squash state efforts to force labeling of GMO foods. Many believe that this bill will stall in the Senate, but there is a growing support for the bill as well.

If this bill goes through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be required to be the enforcer. In 1992 the FDA first allowed the sale and consumption of GMO products.
Where do you stand?

GMO-Free Certification

Many consumer groups have been pushing for mandatory labeling of GMO products recently and The United States Agriculture Department (USDA) is answering this call by offering a new government certification and labeling for non-genetically modified foods (Non-GMO).

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the new certification in a letter to his staff that was released on May 1. The letter stated that the agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service is developing a verification program for food products containing genetically modified ingredients.

There is a nonprofit group called Non-GMO Project who most companies have been using to label their GMO-free products. In fact, up until this point there have been no government labels that only certify a food as GMO-free. The USDA organic label certifies that foods are free of genetically modified ingredients, but many non-GMO foods aren’t organic.

On May 18th SunOpta Inc. identified themselves as “the first food manufacturing facility in the U.S. to receive USDA Process Verified program verification for Non-Genetically Modified Organisms/Non-Genetically Engineered products.” According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack,

GMO or Non-GMO Labels

“other companies are already lining up to take advantage of this service as well.”

Why does this matter to consumers?

Many consumers are wary of GMO foods and question where they are in the food supply and whether they’re dangerous. There is no evidence that eating genetically modified foods poses a threat to health; however, more folks are avoiding them as a preventative measure.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association has been looking to the Food and Drug Administration to outline labeling standards that can be used voluntarily. Companies try to use GMO-free as a marketing advantage, because it is what their consumers are asking for. It’s clear that some companies are welcoming the USDA’s help with GMO labeling.
The new system includes the following:

  1. Companies that want to use the USDA’s Non-GMO Label will pay to participate.
  2. They will have to submit documentation from onsite audits.
  3. The USDA will also send auditors out to verify foods are not being produced with any GMO materials.

Possible Road Blocks

A House bill introduced earlier this year is designed to block mandatory GMO labeling around the country. The bill provides for USDA certification but would not make it mandatory. This bill would also override any state laws that require the labeling.

Vermont became the first state to require the labeling in 2014, and that law will go into effect next year if it survives a legal challenge from the food industry. For more on GMOs and food packaging labels consider reading the article “New GMO Labeling Update – Vermont.”

Labeling Local

Labeling Local

Summer is here and that means enjoying fresh produce as a part of our diet. Often times when we shop for produce, we check for things such as ripeness, bruising, freshness, organic or the increasingly popular term “locally grown.” Have you encountered “locally grown” produce? This term is almost or even more confusing than “organic.” What do you think it means?

What does local mean?

When evaluating local foods, it is important to have a clear definition of “local,” and often times not everyone has the same definition. Start by considering where you shop for produce. Ask the manager at your supermarket if they purchase foods that are grown locally. Did you know that not all “local” labels are equal? Ask the manager what their definition of “local” is. Sometimes this area is in a 50-mile radius and sometimes it is in a 250-mile radius. However you define “local,” the meaning to you should certainly include “from nearby.”

There is no legal definition of “local” in food labeling. According to research by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the definition adopted by the U.S. Congress in the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 Farm Act) is “The total distance that a product can be transported and still be considered a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” is less than 400 miles from its origin, or within the State in which it is produced.”

Thinking Local

The local food movement aims to develop more self-reliant food networks, improve local economies, and increase health in some areas. Local food is an alternative to the global food model which often involves food travelling long distances before reaching the consumer. A local food network is comprised of relationships between food producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers in a particular place. All of these folks work together to increase food security and ensure economic and social sustainability of a community.

Labels are designed to signal that food we want, whatever we want it to be, organic or local.
Do your research and ask all your questions to make sure you are getting what you want out of your locally labeled foods.

For a better understanding of terms such as natural and organic, consider reading “Natural, Organic, Local, Grass-Fed – What’s the Difference?”

Labeling for Food Allergies

May was Food Allergy Action Month and brought attention to the seriousness and importance of understanding food allergies.
Labeling food allergens is very important because allergies can be life threatening and are a serious public health problem. In addition to this, the allergies are impacting not only us, but our children as well. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) food allergies affect up to 10 million Americans, 6 million being children and roughly two in every classroom. 40% of these children have already experienced a severe reaction and 30% have multiple food allergies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children with food allergies in the U.S. increased 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, but there is no clear answer as to why.

What are “Major Food Allergens?”

It is important to examine what major food allergens are. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) identifies 8 foods or food groups as the major food allergens.

Labeling for Food Allergies
  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Fish
  4. Crustacean shellfish
  5. Tree nuts
  6. Peanuts
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans

 

Required Food Labels

Did you know the FALCPA requires food manufacturers to label food products that contain an ingredient that is or contains protein from a major food allergen in one of two ways?

The first option is for food manufacturers to include the name of the food source in parenthesis. The second option is to place the word “Contains” followed by the name of the food source.

Manufacturers can change their products’ ingredients at any time. If you are unsure about whether a food contains any ingredients to which you are sensitive to, don’t buy the products.

Food labeling laws require food allergens to be identified even in very small amounts — but only when they’re contained as an ingredient. Manufacturers aren’t required to include warnings about food allergens accidentally introduced during manufacturing or packaging (cross-contamination). This common occurrence can cause trouble if you’re very sensitive to food allergens.

Snack Safely created an easy to understand infographic that clearly states a food label can tell you when a food product is not safe, but the label alone cannot tell you whether the product is free of the top 8 allergens that might be unintentionally present due to cross contact. Click here for a better understanding of the limitations of the label.

Confused by Labels?

Evaluating food labels is common behavior in the society we live in. As we put a greater emphasis on eating healthy, monitoring calorie consumption and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, evaluating food labels has become an important part of this process. By reading food labels, we are able to examine the calorie count and nutrition information before making a final decision about whether or not to eat the product. Often times, many individuals do not look at the entire label when making their choice. While it is important to focus on calories and vitamins, you can’t just focus on one part of the label because it won’t provide the full story. It is important to examine the amount of sugar, fat and carbohydrates in the product as well.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when evaluating your favorite foods:

Serving Size

The first step in evaluating a label is starting with the serving size amount. All the information on the label is based on the serving size, which can vary because no two serving sizes are the same (e.g., 1 cup, 8 oz). Sometimes a serving size will be way less than what you’re used to eating — like only half a cup of cereal. So always make sure to check this prior to snacking!
The label will also list how many servings are in the package. Even things that seem like they’d be a single serving, such as a bottle of juice or bag of chips, may contain more than one serving. If you eat or drink the entire thing, you’re getting more vitamins and minerals but you’re also getting way more calories, sugar, fat that you might not want.

Calories

A calorie measures how much energy a food provides to your body. Did you know that we consume more calories than needed without eating the correct nutrients to keep us healthy? The number on the food label shows how many calories are in one serving of that food. The number of servings you consume determines the number of calories you actually eat.

Mac and Cheese Label
Image Credit: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Here is an example of a Mac and Cheese label. If you decided to eat the entire box without looking at the serving size, you would have eaten double the calories

without even realizing it. While the Mac and Cheese has protein, calcium and iron, it also contains sodium, carbohydrates and sugar, which may be detrimental to your diet. This is just one reason why it is important to have an understanding of food labels, so you can make food labels work for you.

Calorie Guide

With the large emphasis placed on calorie consumption, how do you evaluate how many calories are too many for one particular product? Listed below is a general calorie guide from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for your reference.

  1. 40 Calories is low
  2. 100 Calories is moderate
  3. 400 Calories is high

The Mac and Cheese has 250 calories per serving so it falls into the moderate-high calorie range. To take a deeper dive into calories, it is also important to look at the calories from fat. As a general rule of thumb, if you eat 2,000 calories a day, about 600 of these calories should come from fat. Meaning about 30% of all the calories consumed in a day should come from fat.

Vitamins and Nutrients

When evaluating food labels, remember that the most important part is the intake of vitamins and minerals. Eating foods that are plentiful with vitamins and minerals helps to keep our bodies healthy. During the label evaluation process, remember to select foods with a high vitamin and nutrient count per serving to get as much nutrition as possible.

How do you evaluate food labels? Check out “Will Clearer Food Labels, Make Healthier Choices Clear?” to get a better understanding of how the serving size can be deceiving, and how the serving size changes the calorie intake.

Why Food Brands Are Moving to Clean Labels

What are clean labels?

A Clean Label is difficult to define since consumers have many different interpretations of this term and there is no actual standard. A Clean Label could refer to many things:

Clean Label
  • An easy-to-understand label.
  • A simple ingredient list.
  • A product with ingredients one can pronounce.
  • A product without additives, artificial preservative, dyes, chemicals, etc.
  • A product with allergens clearly labeled.

Companies often use the phrase “Clean Label” to describe products made with ingredients that consumers understand. “Clean Label” doesn’t necessarily refer to only products manufactured with all-natural ingredients or without additives and preservatives. It simply means offering a clean label that provides clear information so a consumer can make the best decision based on their preferences.

Recent Research

Whatever the meaning of “Clean Labels,” research shows that most consumers avoid artificial or overly processed foods. A recent study by HealthFocus International shows that 77% of shoppers are interested in natural foods.

Many manufacturers are putting more effort into reducing the number of ingredients in many products to have cleaner labels.

The Hershey Co.

In many products, The Hershey Co. has switched to simpler ingredients. They are making products with recognizable ingredients such as milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar. They also share more information on ingredients such as sourcing.

Kraft Foods Group

Kraft Foods Group replaced the high-fructose corn syrup in original Capri Sun drink pouches, and are in the process of removing the artificial sweetener from the Roarin’ Waters drink pouches. Kraft has been actively removing undesirable ingredients from many products like Philadelphia cream cheese, Macaroni and Cheese and select Kraft Single sliced cheese to clean up their labels.

As consumers are over-loaded with information, the demand for simple, easy to understand labels on food and beverage products continues to rise.  Consumers want to know how their processed foods and beverage are prepared and what ingredients are in them.

The clean label approach is becoming more and more important to the consumer, making it difficult for the manufacture with no real definition of “Clean Labels.” The manufacture has to do what they think their consumer believes is clean.

What does “Clean Label” mean to you?

Snack Attack: The Rise of Snack Foods in the USA

When was the last time you ate a snack? Maybe it was a protein bar on your way out the door this morning. Perhaps it was something you grabbed from the vending machine or your lunch break. Are you eating your “I-can-make-it-to-5pm” go-to snack right now?

Today 45% of consumers replace at least one meal each day with a snack. We love snacking, and no country in the world loves it more than the United States.

Snack Attack

Consider these statistics:

  • 51% of consumers report eating snacks twice a day.
  • 64% of consumers are snacking on chocolate.
  • Between 2009 and 2014, the number of adults eating nutritional bars for breakfast increased 11%
  • Sales of packaged snacks are set to grow by 4% through 2015

Oh, and the snack food industry is projected to increase 7% annually and by valued at $334 billion dollars (USD) by the end of 2015!

Snacking is a huge eating trend with subscription snack boxes popping up everywhere (NatureBox, Graze, etc), and food companies report that their snack lines are their biggest growing markets right now.

Americans are busier than ever, and our on-the-go lifestyles require quick snacks that replace meals (protein bars, soup/mac-n-cheese bowls, freezer burritos or TV dinners). Many people do not have time to prepare a lunch for work – and often, they don’t even have time to leave the office to grab a bite at the coffee shop down the street.

The need for speed and efficiency doesn’t replace the desire for healthy choices. The natural market is one of the largest growing markets, and brands are capitalizing on it. Companies like Healthy Pantry pioneered their Cook Simple meal kits to appeal to busy families who still need a healthy meal that can be prepared in a few minutes. Kroger reports that their “Simple Truth” store brand was their most successful product launch ever – reaching billion-dollar brand status in just 2 years. Healthier options such as fruits, yogurt, and nuts that come in easy to carry packages have seen huge boosts in sales in recent years.

Our snack craze goes beyond the grocery store aisles into restaurants and more! Places like Chipotle and Panera Bread have capitalized on the American desire for healthy fast dining options. Panera takes it a step farther by allowing customers to order online and simply pick up their order off a shelf by the door. Cafés and coffee shops have beefed up their snack offerings – Kind bars, bags of trail mix, and other snacks can be easily added onto your Starbucks coffee order in the morning. It’s perfect for that mid-afternoon snack later.

Here at EPI we are definitely seeing growth in the “healthy” snack segment (ie. Organic, reduced fat, gluten free) but, we are also seeing growth in snacks packaged for on the go (ie. Single serve packs, packages designed for car travel and packs that fit easily into backpacks/handbags etc.

Pack Expo East 2015

Pack Expo East

 Visit us in Booth #1011!

We are one week away from the first ever East Coast Pack Expo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This show will draw attendees from all over the North East bringing top processing and packaging supplies together. Pack Expo East is on a smaller scale giving attendees more time to engage with those on the show floor without the enormity PackExpo International.

Pack Expo East brings:

  • Advanced processing and packaging solutions
  • Leading OEMs within the industry
  • Solutions specialized to your industry
  • New ideas from other industries on processing and packaging

This show is supposed to have nearly 400 suppliers, 20 targeted educational opportunities and 3 days to experience it all! Join us and experience the innovation in action on the show floor. Get your creative juices flowing and talk show with engineers from the top suppliers.

EPI Labelers will be exhibiting in Booth #1011. We will be featuring several of our top of the line labelers including:
C-Wrap System, Core Series Print/Apply, Core Series Labeler, UII and M-Series. You will also be able to check out our Flex-PacTM in Matrix’s booth #706. Our labeler will be on their bag maker.  Stop by our booth and talk with our top salesman, engineers and service techs! Let’s get innovative together and solve your labeling needs!

Our machines are the answer to easy and efficient workflow production for our clients’ industries, which include; snack food, bakery, confectionery, beverage, dairy, coffee, meat and poultry, pet food, frozen food, fabric, textile and general packaging.

For the latest information on our machines, industry trends and all of EPI’s latest news and happenings, check out our blog.

How to Clean Your Labeling Equipment

It’s a New Year with new resolutions. Many have decided to get healthier, spend less and even to be more organized. Why not include your labeling equipment in that resolution? There are several easy things you can do to ensure a long life and greater efficiency for your labeling equipment.

When it comes to our labelers, there are some simple no-cost things you can do to make sure your machine is operating properly for the life of the labeler. As a leader in the pressure sensitive labeling market, EPI has gained much experience from working with market leaders in snack food, confectionery, coffee, and consumer products industries. We are constantly developing new products and better methods to solve labeling problems to ease the burden on production personnel.

Here are some recommendations we have for all our clients on how to keep your labelers running like the day they were installed.

Cleaning and Sanitation

Wipe down the following with a plant-approved, liquid food-grade cleaning agent using a cloth and then wiped dry with another cloth:

UII Labeler: Parts to Keep Clean
  • Main Plate
  • Peeler Bar
  • Rollers
  • Supply Spool

It is critical the peeler bar and the applicator are clean of adhesive. The Label Sensor should be wiped clean with a dry cloth also.

The cleaning for the Top Plate, Supply Spool, and Label Sensor should be done anytime machine production is stopped and at a minimum once a day.

EPI Labelers are designed to work within a normal food-packaging environment. If the labeler is operated in a dusty area, be sure to wipe the machine off as much as possible.

Don’t Forget!

  • Cover the machine and remove power if equipment above or around it is being cleaned, especially if water is being used in the process.
  • Clean the labeler after surrounding equipment has been sanitized.
  • CAUTION: DO NOT wet down this machine or directly hit it with an air hose. Damage to the unit or personal injury may occur.
    Caution

The 2014 Labeling Craze and Liabilities for the Future

Every representation about food has the potential for misbranding claims in civil or criminal court. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s food labeling regulations are just another legal matter waiting for their day in court.

2014 Labeling Craze and Liabilities

The Labeling Craze of 2014

In 2014 we were presented with the latest labeling requirements complete with revised demands related to nutritional content. (See: “Will Clearer Food Labels Make For Healthier Choices?”) Compliance with labeling regulations is necessary because non-compliance could result not just in serious injury to consumers but also significant civil liabilities for producers. The most dangerous risk to a producer may actually come from the individual who does read the nutrition label. According to Food Safety Magazine, studies show that less than 50% of consumers regularly read nutrition labels on prepackaged food. And the number of consumers who will ask to see nutrition information in restaurants will likely be even lower. However, those who read the information are doing so for a reason. The diabetic consumer could end up in a diabetic shock if the labeling information is inaccurate. A consumer who relies on accurate sodium content may end up in cardiac arrest. Inaccuracies on nutritional information could be fatal for consumers with pre-existing conditions. The labeling craze of 2014 was focused on the nation’s nutrition with the hope of addressing obesity. Lobbyists, lawmakers, and more believe that providing more complete labeling would give consumers a better understanding of how to be healthier.

We saw big changes including:

Gluten-Free Labeling Regulation
Food Labeling Modernization Act
• GMO Labeling Updates in states like Vermont
Changes to Calorie Labeling Regulation

Changes to Restaurant Food Labeling

Originally the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 specifically exempted foods sold in restaurant-type settings. Fast-forward twenty years and 2010’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act set out to provide consumers access to certain nutritional information when purchasing food in restaurants. This was just finalized on Dec. 1, 2014. This additional nutritional information requirement very closely resembles the information and format required for Nutrition Fact Labels contained on prepackaged foods.

What’s Next for Nutritional Labeling in 2015

The FDA claims the basis of both proposals is to present the information in such a way as to maximize the attention and understanding of the consumer, with the hopes the consumer will make healthier eating choices. Still the question remains: Will new nutritional information result in improved food choices or will it simply overwhelm the consumer?

Regardless of the answer, changes to nutritional labeling are here to stay and the impact on producers is significant, as these regulations are strict and non-compliance could have negative ramifications on many levels.