Up to the late 1960s, there was little information on food labels to identify the nutrient content of the food. From 1941 to 1966, when information on the calorie or sodium content was included on some food labels, those foods were considered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be for “special dietary uses,” that is, intended to meet particular dietary needs caused by physical, pathological, or other conditions.2,3,4 At that time meals were generally prepared at home from basic ingredients and there was little demand for nutritional information (Kessler, 1989). However, as increasing numbers of processed foods came into the marketplace, consumers requested information that would help them understand the products they purchased (WHC, 1970). In response to this dilemma, a recommendation of the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health was that FDA consider developing a system for identifying the nutritional qualities of food:

Every manufacturer should be encouraged to provide truthful nutritional information about his products to enable consumers to follow recommended dietary regimens. (WHC, 1970)

This chapter provides a history of the milestones in nutrition labeling since 1969. These events are also detailed in the annex to this chapter.


In response to the White House Conference, FDA developed a working draft of various approaches to nutrition labeling and asked for comment by nutritionists, consumer groups, and the food industry. Then in 1972 the agency proposed regulations that specified a format to provide nutrition information on packaged food labels. Inclusion of such information was to be voluntary, except when nutrition claims were made on the label, in labeling, or in advertising, or when nutrients were added to the food. In those cases, nutrition labeling would be mandatory.5 This


1 This Appendix contains material excerpted from: IOM. 2010. Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Phase I Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

2 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, Sec. 411(c)(3) (21 U.S.C. Part 350).

3 6 FR 5921.

4 31 FR 8521.

5 37 FR 6493.

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