A Comprehensive Strategy to Overhaul FDA Authority for Misleading Food Labels
American Journal of Law & Medicine. Vol. 39 (2013)
37 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2014
Date Written: 2013
The modern food environment is considered a primary driver of obesity and other nutrition-related chronic diseases. A significant contribution to this environment is the proliferation of claims on food packaging that provides a misleading picture of a product’s healthfulness. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the agency responsible for food labels but it lacks the regulatory authority and adequate resources to address the majority of questionable labeling practices. The FDA's current system of enforcement is thus essentially based on voluntary compliance. Consumer- and manufacturer-initiated litigation has not successfully filled the regulatory gap. This manuscript reviews the current state of food labeling claims and the FDA's inadequate authority over misbranded food products. It analyzes competing views on regulatory compliance strategies and argues that a regulatory overhaul consistent with the best science and the First Amendment is necessary. It argues for a regulatory overhaul and increased resources to the agency through user fees. With increased resources and authority, the FDA can meet current public health challenges and adequately ensure that labels are clear and consumers are properly informed and protected.
Keywords: public health law and policy, FDA, food, labels, misleading, claims, administrative law, regulation
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