A customer named Kevin H. submitted the following question to us last month which turns out to be an ongoing headache we have with our friends from the FDA:
Dear Seagate — “Hello, I’m interested in using you Marine Protein; however, I first need to verify that the product is labeled as a food instead of a supplement. In other words, labeled with “nutrition facts,” rather than “supplement facts.” Due to certain technicalities, I am not supposed to take supplements. Sincerely, Kevin”
Although this question was specific about Marine Protein, it impacts how we create our labels and determine whether a product has a Supplement Facts label or a Nutrition Facts label as a food.
Seagate responded to Kevin as follows:
The product is currently labeled as a food with a Nutrition Facts panel.
However during a recent visit by a local FDA inspector to our San Diego warehouse, we were requested to reprint this label and call it a dietary supplement, changing the Nutrition Facts panel to Supplement Facts.
We have argued with FDA over the years that sometimes it is necessary to encapsulate a product because it is just a convenient way to take a product that has an objectionable taste. The FDA does not like that argument. Sometimes it is better when you are going to fight with these people, to pick the fights over something more substantial. Therefore, in this case we are changing the Marine Protein label in 2015 to become a supplement.
Anyway, my suggestion to you is to not get lost in the “semantics” of this issue. The product is always going to be cooked, freeze-dried sardines ground into a powder, no matter whether label panel changes in the future.
Seagate Customer Service
Then there are the exceptions to the rule where industries are allowed to be specific about the nutritional benefits of their food product — milk commercials claiming protein, California Raisins claiming iron, cereals claiming to be heart-healthy, or whole wheat bread claiming to be a source of fiber. If the industry is large and has a lobby in Washington, there is a better chance they can have it their way. The FDA is particularly tough on the health food industry.