by Marion Nestle
Oct 28 2010

Food, grocery trade associations preempt FDA labeling plans

In a online press release yesterday, the Grocery Manufacturing Association (GMA) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced a new labeling initiative for their member companies:

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….America’s food and beverage manufacturers and retailers have agreed to support the change to their product labels with a $50 million consumer education campaign.

Forget the consumer-friendly rhetoric.

There is only one explanation for this move: heading off the FDA’s Front-of-Package (FOP) labeling initiatives.

Only two weeks ago, the Institute of Medicine released its first FDA-sponsored FOP labeling report.  The IOM committee recommended that FOP symbols only mention calories, sodium, trans fat, and saturated fat.  This led William Neuman of the New York Times to summarize its approach as: “Tell us how your products are bad for us.”

GMA and FMI would much rather label their products with all the things that are good about them, like added vitamins, omega-3s, and fiber.  If they must do negatives, they prefer “no trans fat” or “no cholesterol.”

What they especially do not want the FDA to impose is “traffic-light” symbols.  These U.K. symbols, you may recall from previous posts, discourage consumers from buying anything labeled in red, and were so strongly opposed by the food industry that they caused the undoing of the British Food Standards Agency.

GMA and FMI, no doubt, are hoping the same thing will happen to our FDA.

In today’s New York Times, Mr. Neuman quotes a GMA representative:

Mary Sophos, an executive vice president for the group, said the label would not characterize a food’s overall nutritional qualities as good or bad — like the traffic signal label in Great Britain that displays a red circle for less healthy nutrient levels and a green circle for healthier levels.

“We’re not going to get into interpreting elements of the food,” Ms. Sophos said.

This move is all the evidence the FDA needs for mandatory FOP labels.   GMA and FMI have just demonstrated that the food industry will not willingly label its processed foods in ways that help the public make healthier food choices.

Let’s hope the GMA/FMI scheme goes the way of the ill-fated, not-so-Smart Choices program.

FDA: you should be outraged by this move.  Say so!

Comments

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ProgGrrl, Marion Nestle, Barry A. Martin, Adriana Velez, Devyn Elizabeth and others. Devyn Elizabeth said: RT @slowfoodto: | Food Politics Food, grocery trade associations preempt FDA labeling plans: In a online press release yesterday, … http://bit.ly/9NGkxJ [...]

  • Anthro
  • October 28, 2010
  • 10:31 am

Where/who is the best channel of action? Should we write the FDA directly or what?

This is scandalous and MUST be stopped. Can we JUST ONCE actually act in the best interest of the public instead of the interests of greedy shareholders?

I thought the FDA worked for the GMA. I hope this is my mistake.

[...] or sudden goodwill by the food industry. This is what nutrition professor and fellow blogger Marion Nestle calls a preemptive [...]

[...] As nutritionist Marion Nestle writes on her Food Politics blog, the food and beverage manufacturers “would much rather label their producs with all the things that are good about them, like added vitamins, omega-3s, and fiber. If they must do negatives, they prefer ‘no trans fat’ or ‘no cholesterol.’” [...]

  • Bobby
  • October 29, 2010
  • 6:01 pm

lies, damned lies, and corporate P.R. lies.

We know which are the worst. How can PR flacks and marketing whizkids sleep at night, I can never figure out. A complete lack of morality and ethics seems the primary qualification to work in the food marketing business.

[...] As nutritionist Marion Nestle writes on her Food Politics blog, the food and beverage manufacturers “would much rather label their producs with all the things that are good about them, like added vitamins, omega-3s, and fiber. If they must do negatives, they prefer ‘no trans fat’ or ‘no cholesterol.’” [...]

  • JudyThomas
  • October 30, 2010
  • 5:10 am

Eat low on the food chain, make the majority of your diet whole foods that you cook yourself, shop at the outer edges of the grocery store, avoid the artificial crap and thereby “vote” with your wallet. And write the FDA.

Wow why doesn’t the GMA take that $50M and fund the Child Nutrition Act instead of the feds swiping it from the SNAP program? Now there’s a thought!

[...] here to read about some recent developments on front-of-package labeling initiatives. Though we still [...]

[...] Food, grocery trade associations preempt FDA labeling plans, Food Politics, October 27, 2010 [...]

[...] or sudden goodwill by the food industry. This is what nutrition professor and fellow blogger Marion Nestle calls a preemptive [...]

[...] “nutrients to encourage”, such as fiber and potassium. However, this effort has been criticized because the GMA and FMI were also in talks with the FDA, White House and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) about creating a standardized labeling system. The [...]

Leave a comment