I am speaking at the Con Edison Science, Technology, Energy, Environment, and Math (STEEM) Distinguished Lecturer series on “Food Politics 2020: Food Industry Influence on Nutrition Research and Practice.” It’s from 12:15-1:30 pm at the Science Building, C-201. Details are here.
FDA study: Do added nutrients sell products? (Of course they do)
The FDA has announced that it will be studying the effects of nutrient-content claims on consumers attitudes about food products.
FDA does not encourage the addition of nutrients to certain food products (including sugars or snack foods such as [cookies] candies, and carbonated beverages). FDA is interested in studying whether fortification of these foods could cause consumers to believe that substituting fortified snack foods for more nutritious foods would ensure a nutritionally sound diet.
Here’s one of my favorite examples of what the FDA is talking about.
I’m guessing the FDA’s new research project is a response to increasing pressure from food companies to be allowed to add nutrients to cookies, candies, and soft drinks.
Food marketers know perfectly well that nutrients sell food products. The whole point of doing so is to be able to make nutrient-content claims on package labels.
The FDA has never been happy about the practice of adding nutrients to junk foods just to make them seem healthy. Its guidance includes what is commonly known as the “jelly bean rule.” You may not add nutrients to jelly beans to make them eligible to be used in school lunches.
But this does not stop food manufacturers—especially soft drink manufacturers—from trying. Hence: Vitamin Water (now owned by Coca-Cola).
Plenty of research demonstrates that nutrients sell food products. Any health or health-like claim on a food product—vitamins added, no trans fats, organic—makes people believe that the product has fewer calories and is a health food.
As I keep saying, added vitamins are about marketing, not health.