The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to extend the deadline date given to food companies to implement its new nutrition and serving size labels.

Originally set at 26 July 2018, the FDA has proposed a new date of 1 January 2020 for companies with US$10M or more in annual sales, while manufacturers with less US$10M in sales would get a further year – until 1 January 2021.

The agency said the delay proposal came in response to concerns from food producers and trade associations that they would not have enough time to update all their products with the new required information, which included the amount of added sugars and more prominent type size for calories.

The new labels would require food producers to define portion sizes more in line with amounts people actually eat as, in previous labels, portion sizes were significantly underestimated.

And while the labels would still need to show ‘total fat’, ‘saturated fat’ and ‘trans fat’ content, ‘calories from fat’ was being removed because research showed the type of fat was more important than the amount, the FDA said.

Reactions to the deadline extension have been mixed. The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), among other industry players, welcomed the decision.

“AFFI commends the FDA’s decision to provide frozen food and beverage makers additional time to implement these changes. It will help AFFI’s members, especially our small and medium sized companies, make these changes and also lessen the financial burden of doing so,” said AFFI president and CEO Alison Bodor.

The Centre for Science in Public Interest (CSPI), on the other hand, said in a statement that the FDA had “caved in to food industry demands” and that the decision would harm public health.

“Despite the critical public health need for the updated labels, the Trump administration has yielded to the industry’s arguments that it will cost it too much to meet the original deadlines. The FDA also blamed its favourite scapegoat, the Obama administration, for rushing the agency to implement the new requirements and giving it too little time to provide guidance to the industry,” said Peter Lurie, CSPI president.

Lurie cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claiming that in in all 50 US states, self-reported obesity had increased to more than 20%, implying an upward trajectory since 2010, with 25 states reporting rates higher than 30%.

According food labelling tracking form Label Insight, at least 8,000 food products were already using the new style of nutrition labels despite the FDA’s pushback.