I’m on a panel for the NYAS’s conference on Conflicts of Interest in Healthcare: Opportunities for Self-Reflection and Action, June 24-25. Location: 7 World Trade Center. 250 Greenwich St, 40th Floor. Information and registration are here. My panel is on the 25th at 10:45 a.m. , Session VI: Hot topic discussion: getting to the truth in nutrition science. Other panelists are Mona Calvo fro Penn State, Mehmood Khan from Life Biosciences, and Linda Van Horn from Northwestern. Moderator is Julia Belluz from Vox.
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.