Local Business

Nutrition label changes could impact local businesses

McHENRY – Kent Thomas orders somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 nutrition labels at a time. Now, the co-owner of Two Fat Guys Gourmet Sauces is worried his stock might go to waste.

Under a proposal from the Food and Drug Administration, food companies tiny to huge would have to print new labels, matching a standard set to assist a health-conscious public but one that could cost businesses thousands of dollars.

“It’s just going to be a ton of money for everybody to make new plates and labels,” said Thomas, who co-owns McHenry-based Two Fat Guys with Bob Packard and serves as the company’s CEO. “To have to go back ... probably have to repay to have nutritional facts updated.”

Led by backing from First Lady Michelle Obama, the changes include updating serving sizes to more accurately represent how much people eat, left-aligning daily value percentages, differentiating between “added sugars” and those naturally occurring, and requiring information on nutrients like Vitamin D and potassium, among other changes.

The proposal came out in late February. The FDA is now in a 90-day period of accepting public comment.

One to-be-determined point that could be crucial to the impact on small businesses is how long businesses would have to make the change, said Ron Tanner, vice president of government and industry relations for the Specialty Food Association.

Tanner said it could take many small businesses two or three years – for some, five years – to use up their stock of labels. He said the Specialty Food Association was yet to come out with a specific position, but that it was likely they would ask that small businesses be given time so they don’t have to burn labels.

“It’s not really a small business exemption,” he said. “It’s more of an extension.”

And if the changes are implemented quickly? It could mean thousands of dollars in losses for some businesses, he said.

When it comes to specialty foods, “the taste gets them to come back, but the look gets them to try it,” Tanner said. “So they have relatively expensive labels.”

Thomas said he has concerns about another potential expense: shipping. While Two Fat Guys is a small operation, its product is spread out in warehouses across the country. An abrupt shift in label regulations would force the company to pay for shipping to bring their stock back local for the appropriate changes.

“It’s going to be a challenge for everybody, whether you’re small or large in the business,” Thomas said.

You can count Candy Stade’s business among those expecting an impact. The owner of Sweet Slap ’n Salsa tends to order about 5,000 labels a piece for her six products. New plates for each product cost about $50 each, she said.

“I will definitely take a hit because now I have to make new plates and order all new labels,” she said.

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