GMA CALLS FOR CARB-LABELING REGULATIONS

WASHINGTON -- Grocery Manufacturers of America called for the Food and Drug Administration to establish regulations reflecting accurate label claims on carbohydrates."Consumers have been bombarded with inconclusive and contradictory information about carbohydrates and their impact on their health," Alison Krester, GMA director of nutrition and scientific policy, said in a conference call last week

WASHINGTON -- Grocery Manufacturers of America called for the Food and Drug Administration to establish regulations reflecting accurate label claims on carbohydrates.

"Consumers have been bombarded with inconclusive and contradictory information about carbohydrates and their impact on their health," Alison Krester, GMA director of nutrition and scientific policy, said in a conference call last week detailing the trade group's petition and recommendations. "Whether they're choosing low-carb, high-carb, or something in between, consumers need accurate information to help them meet their dietary goals."

GMA recommended that FDA establish several standards covering a full range of claims, including "Carbohydrate-free," "Low-carbohydrate," "Good source of carbohydrate" and "Excellent source of carbohydrate," for both individual foods and main-dish items. Individual foods with 9 grams of carbohydrates or less, or meals with 9 grams of carbs per 100 grams of product, up to 25 grams overall, would qualify to make a "low-carbohydrate" label claim. In the case of main-dish products, GMA recommended the carb count be based on the entire product and not its components. Otherwise, certain foods could claim to be both low in carbohydrates and an excellent source of them.

"What's unique is carbohydrates would be the first macronutrient to have the entire range from low to good to excellent. We have 'Low-fat' and 'Good source of protein,' but we don't have a 'Low source of protein' claim," Krester said, comparing the scope of labeling between carbs and proteins.

An FDA spokesman acknowledged the issue is of great interest to consumers, but did not know of any specific action the agency would take on the carb claims. GMA said its plan would also reduce confusion between FDA and grocery manufacturers regarding the interpretation of current agency regulations.

Leah McGrath, a dietitian for Ingles Markets, Black Mountain, N.C., said she would probably advocate that foods simply list carbs per serving.

"Manufacturers probably shouldn't say a food is low in carbs or low in net carbs without also saying what that means," McGrath said. "I would suspect the low-carb craze is going to have a long, long run, and I think the more we can do for consumers regarding labeling guidelines or more information, the better they will be."