With last year’s change in government, the food industry has been thrown into disarray. Not only has the Trump Administration delayed the implementation of the menu labeling laws by another year, they’ve also postponed the new food labeling laws indefinitely. It seems like everything in the food industry is at a standstill—or at least a crawl.
Those working in food manufacturing can also expect delays on Bill S.764, a bill that mandates the labeling of GMO ingredients on food products across the nation. Trump’s executive orders in January returned all pending regulations and proposals back to their respective departments, effectively preventing the USDA’s proposal to conduct research and surveys for the GMO labeling law. If that weren’t enough, the Trump Administration also ordered that two regulations be cut for every regulation put forth by a department. This is making it difficult for the USDA to continue consulting the public and hammering out the specifics of the bill, such as what the label will look like and what food products will require labeling.
Given this fact, we likely won’t see the GMO labeling law come into effect in July of 2018 as originally planned. Food manufacturers do, however, have the option of indicating whether foods contain genetically engineered ingredients before any laws are in place. Let’s look at why voluntary GMO labeling might be a good idea while we wait to see how the situation unfolds in the government.
The Benefits of Voluntary GMO Labeling
Americans overwhelmingly support the labeling of GMOs—even across the political spectrum. In fact, a whopping 92% of Democrats and 89% of Republicans are in favor of the idea. So, you can imagine the public’s disappointment in January when Trump put a halt to the USDA’s research process that would inform the bill’s exact implementation. Since the bill was signed by Obama in July of 2016, the public has been anxiously awaiting the roll-out in July 2018.
The government’s delay in enforcing GMO labeling hasn’t stopped many food manufacturers from hearing the public’s desires and labeling products of their own volition. This, in part, inspired the FDA guidelines for voluntary GMO labeling for those wanting to provide their customers with this level of transparency. An independent customer-driven movement also resulted in the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization that reviews and verifies food products looking to attain their non-GMO label. Approximately 43,000 products have gained their signature butterfly label since the first one was issued in 2010.
The combined popularity of the Non-GMO project and public opinion on GMO labeling suggest it is wise for food manufacturers to consider voluntarily labeling their products. After all, a whopping 75% of packaged/processed foods on American grocery store shelves contain genetically modified ingredients. By voluntarily labeling your products with a non-GMO indicator (after an assessment by a qualified third party, of course), you are tapping into a growing consumer trend which has the potential to greatly benefit your business—especially while a labeling law is not yet in place.
Greater Transparency, Greater Trust
By choosing to provide the public with transparency around the origins of the ingredients in your products, you inherently gain their trust. And of course, customers who trust your business are more likely to be loyal. In fact, 94% of responders to a survey on loyalty and transparency claimed that if a brand offers complete honesty around their products, they will be committed to the brand. Furthermore, 73% said they would pay more for a product if it is totally forthcoming with information about the ingredients.
Voluntary labeling of GMOs isn’t the only way you can be transparent with customers, however. Nutrient content claims (NCCs) like “low-fat” or “high-fiber” also provide customers with an FDA-regulated description of the contents of your product, and this additional information can help them feel more confident in your product.
You can also use terms like “healthy” and “natural” on your label if your product meets the FDA guidelines for using such terms. Labeling with the word “healthy” informs customers that your product contains acceptable amounts of fat, sodium, and cholesterol according to the FDA’s standards. The term “natural” draws attention to the fact that your product doesn’t contain synthetic additives or ingredients—not even naturally derived color additives. Both these terms are useful in both catching a customer’s attention and gaining their trust. Of course, be sure you consult with a nutrition label expert and use an FDA-approved nutritional analysis software to ensure your product is eligible to use these terms in compliance with FDA standards.
Consult an Expert for All Your Label Needs
Food labeling—from GMOs to NCCs—can be overwhelming, especially given the changes and delays currently happening in the industry. Since GMO labeling seems to be at a standstill for now, it is wise to provide voluntary labeling to satisfy the demands of the American public. Being transparent in other ways, such as by providing NCCs and using terms like “natural” or “healthy” on your label, can also gain customers’ trust, potentially resulting in greater demand for your product. Whether the Trump Administration likes it or not, Americans want to know what is in their food—and as a food manufacturer, you have a responsibility to tell them.
Complying with labeling guidelines and regulations can be tricky—even when they’re voluntary. At LabelCalc, our nutrition label expert consultants are here to help with all your label needs. For more information, contact us today.