U.S. Recommended Daily Intakes, 1970–1990

Early labeling policies were concerned primarily with maintaining the composition of basic food products and discouraging the sale of processed substitutes on the assumption that traditionally formulated food and meals prepared in the home would ensure healthy diets (IOM, 1990). The White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, convened by President Nixon in 1969, moved labeling policies to another plane. The conference focused on previously unrecognized malnutrition in Americans and included in its final report criticism of the manner in which FDA was regulating food labeling and the need for improved label information to help Americans make informed dietary choices to enhance nutrition (WHC, 1970).

By 1973 FDA had adopted several amendments to its regulations in follow-up to the White House Conference recommendations. Most important was its adoption of regulations governing nutrition labeling for packaged food (IOM, 1990; Wodicka, 1973). The regulations applied to retail packaged food other than meat and poultry products. Nutrition labeling was required in a specified format and place on the food label if the manufacturer of a food added a nutrient or made a nutrition claim for the product (IOM, 1990). The regulations required the same nutrition information if a manufacturer voluntarily chose to use nutrition labeling. It has been estimated that about half the food supply contained nutrition information under these requirements. These and other issues pertinent to the history of nutrition labeling in the 1970s through 1990 are well described by Hutt (1995) and in Nutrition Labeling: Issues and Directions for the 1990s (IOM, 1990).

In keeping with the concern about undernourishment in the United States, FDA officials wanted to ensure that consumers had sufficient information to enable them to select a diet that was adequate in vitamins, minerals, and protein, while also curbing excessive consumption of these nutrients (IOM, 1990). Under the overall heading of “Nutrition Information,” vitamins and minerals were described in terms of a percentage of a single set of nutrient reference values called U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances (US RDAs) per standard size serving (FDA, 1973). US RDAs were established for 12 vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, biotin, and pantothenic acid), 7 minerals (calcium, iron, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc, and copper), and protein (FDA, 1990b; IOM, 1990). Macronutrients were described in terms of weight and provided no



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