The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) (Public Law 101-535) is a 1990 United States Federal law. It was signed into law on November 8, 1990 by President George H. W. Bush.
The law gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to require nutrition labeling of most foods regulated by the Agency; and to require that all nutrient content claims (for example, 'high fiber', 'low fat', etc.) and health claims meet FDA regulations. The act did not require restaurants to comply with the same standards.
The regulations became effective for health claims, ingredient declarations, and percent juice labeling on May 8, 1993 (but percent juice labeling was exempted until May 8, 1994).
Effective Jan. 1, 2006, the Nutrition Facts Labels on packaged food products are required by the FDA to list how many grams of trans fatty acid (trans fat) are contained within one serving of the product.
This summary is from Wikipedia.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.
10/24/1990--Passed Senate amended.
Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 - Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) to deem a food misbranded unless its label bears nutrition information that provides: (1) the serving size or other common household unit of measure customarily used; (2) the number of servings or other units per container; (3) the number of calories per serving and derived from total fat and saturated fat; (4) the amount of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, sugars, total protein, and dietary fiber per serving or other unit; and (5) subject to conditions, vitamins, minerals or other nutrients. Authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to: (1) require certain information to be highlighted; (2) require additional nutrients to be included in the labeling; or (3) exempt nutrients from the labeling requirement. Allows nutrition information on food received in bulk containers at a retail establishment to be displayed at the location in the establishment at which the food is offered for sale. Directs the Secretary to provide, for raw agricultural commodities and raw fish (defining "fish" to mean aquatic animal life), for furnishing the nutrition information by issuing voluntary nutrition guidelines. Applies the voluntary guidelines only to the 20 varieties most frequently consumed of each of vegetables, fruit, and raw fish. Allows the Secretary to apply the guidelines regionally. Directs the Secretary, if the Secretary finds after 30 months that there is not substantial compliance with the voluntary guidelines, to issue regulations requiring the nutrition information to be provided for frequently consumed varieties of vegetables, fruit, and raw fish. Regulates the location, content, and manner of presentation of the information. Prohibits prosecution for minor violations if there has been substantial compliance. Exempts from the labeling requirements food: (1) sold for immediate consumption in restaurants, or sold to restaurants for sale or use in restaurants; (2) processed and prepared primarily in a retail establishment and not for immediate consumption in the establishment; (3) including certain infant formulas; (4) which is a medical food; (5) which is customarily processed, labeled, or repacked in substantial quantities at establishments other than those where it was originally processed or packed; (6) in small packages containing no nutrition information; (7) which contains insignificant amounts of all the nutrients and does not make any claim with respect to the nutritional value of the food; (8) sold by certain small businesses, unless the label provides nutrition information or makes a nutrition claim; and (9) sold by a distributor to restaurants or certain other establishments. Allows the Secretary to require, if a food contains insignificant amounts of more than half the nutrients required to be included in the labeling, that the amounts of such nutrients be stated in a simplified form. Requires certain vitamins and minerals to include nutrient information in their labeling as appropriate and as specified by the Secretary. Directs the Secretary to issue regulations which: (1) require the nutrition information on labels to be conveyed in a manner which enables the public to readily observe and comprehend it and to understand its relative significance in the context of a total daily diet; (2) establish standards to define serving size or other unit of measure; (3) permit the inclusion of certain information beyond that which is required; and (4) permit single statements or ranges when there are minor variations in the nutritional value or the food is comprised of an assortment of similar foods which have variations in nutritional value. Directs the Secretary to carry out consumer education regarding nutrition labeling. Sets forth the circumstances under which nutrition and health claims may and may not be made for foods. Regulates the presentation of claims, including claims involving cholesterol, saturated fat, or fiber. Authorizes the Secretary to prohibit claims that are misleading in light of another nutrient in the food. Exempts from certain regulations: (1) terms contained in the brand name of a food, if the name was in use on that food before October 25, 1989; (2) the term "diet," when used in the brand name of a soft drink and subject to other requirements; (3) a statement regarding the percentage of vitamins and minerals in the food in relation to recommended daily consumption; and (4) infant formulas subject to specified provisions of the FDCA and medical foods as defined in the Orphan Drug Act. Allows proceedings for the enforcement, or to restrain violations, of the amendments made by this Act to be brought in the name of a State in which the food that is the subject of the proceedings is located (in addition to the existing authorization to bring such actions to enforce the FDCA in the name of the United States). Declares that a food which makes a claim which characterizes the relationship of its constituents to a disease or a condition, or makes a claim with respect to a dietary supplement of vitamins, minerals, herbs, or similar nutritional substances, in accordance with the requirements of this Act, is not, solely because of such claim, a drug under specified provisions of FDCA. Prohibits, subject to exception, a State or its subdivision from establishing or continuing in effect any requirement for a food that is the subject of a standard of identity, or any labeling requirement that is not identical to the requirements of this Act. Provides for exemption petitions by States if a State or local requirement would not cause any food to be in violation of Federal law, would not unduly burden interstate commerce, and is designed to address a particular need for nutrition information which is not met by the requirements of this Act. Deems any food (currently, any food without a prescribed definition and standard of identity) misbranded unless it bears any common or usual name of the food and lists optional ingredients. Requires a beverage containing vegetable or fruit juice to bear a statement of the percentage of the vegetable or fruit juice in the food. Provides exceptions for spices, flavorings, and colors not required to be certified under specified provisions. Modifies provisions relating to the procedures for the establishment of regulations concerning definitions and standards of identity.