Earlier this week, the two largest food and beverage trade organizations announced a new industry initiative for Front-of-Package (FOP) nutrition labeling of groceries. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) issued a joint press release:
America’s leading food and beverage manufacturers and retailers joined forces today in the fight against obesity and announced their commitment to develop a new front-of-package nutrition labeling system. The unprecedented consumer initiative will make it easier for busy consumers to make informed choices when they shop. read more…
The organizations are throwing $50 Million into this effort in order to “educate consumers”:
“The food and beverage industry is committed to empowering consumers by providing them with the products, tools and information they need to achieve and maintain a healthy diet…”
Here’s what David Mackay, the CEO of Kellogg’s had to say:
“This is a landmark step forward in the industry’s commitment to help address the obesity challenge. It represents the most significant change to food labels in the United States in nearly twenty years.”
If the industry spent as much energy making their food healthy as they do on these labeling smoke and mirrors perhaps we’d all be better off. but then again, you can’t make a healthy pop-tart, no matter how hard you’ll try.
What you need to know:
This move is not about obesity prevention, or sudden goodwill by the food industry. This is what nutrition professor and fellow blogger Marion Nestle calls a preemptive strike:
There is only one explanation for this move: heading off the FDA’s Front-of-Package (FOP) labeling initiatives.
We agree. Just two weeks ago we reported on the courageous report by the Institute of Medicine which recommended only four parameters be considered for display on FOP labels: calories, saturated fat, trans-fat, and sodium. These are all negatives, and the usage of the FOP would thus be to warn people away from bad-for-health foods.
This is just something that manufacturers can’t have happen, simply because most of the foods would be negatively marked. If you don’t think so, check out the Guiding Stars system founded by Hannaford Supermarkets in the Northeast and now available in 1600 supermarkets. Less than 10% of their products qualify for a healthy “star” or more. Which means 90% of the products could potentially be labeled negatively. Only 25% of the items qualify for one or more stars, which means 3 out of 4 could potentially be labeled negatively. [thank you Guiding Stars for the corrections].
If that would happen, people may actually reduce their spending on processed crap. And that would hurt the industry’s bottom line.
What to do at the supermarket:
You know our mantra, never ever believe the marketing BS on food packages even if it looks like a presidential seal of approval. The information you seek is on the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list. Read it before you eat it! And if you have any question, please let us know.