Now that the White House and Walmart have positioned themselves at the head of the healthy food movement, food manufacturers are rallying the troops and gathering right behind.
The White House team wants labels on the front of packaged foods to emphasize nutrients that consumers want to avoid like sodium, calories and fat. And the industry team – led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute – wants to use those labels to highlight “good” nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber content.
The new label plan – called Nutrition Keys – will show four basic nutrients: calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugars. Manufacturers can also add two more nutrients to the label, from a list of eight: potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and protein.
Interesting that the “new” label resembles the one that accompanied the Smart Choices label, which came under fire by the FDA last year. The agency said the system could be misleading. The Smart Choices Program was developed by an industry group – including General Mills and Kellogg Company – that ultimately qualified sugary cereals like Froot Loops as a “smart choice.”
The same day the new label plan was announced, a group called the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) was called on the carpet for not “walking the talk” when they vowed to “shift the mix of advertising messaging at children to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthier lifestyles” based on the American Heart Association’s HeartCheck program criteria.
A new study showed that of 58 products made by the companies that participate in the initiative, 49 did not meet these standards. Healthy choices indeed!
Will all these labels make a difference? Marion Nestle, nutrition, public health, and sociology professor at New York University, has been arguing against “front of package” labels for a long time. From her perspective, FOP labels are simply marketing devices that may encourage consumers to choose products that are not the best alternative as part of a healthy diet.
As much as the team promoting the Nutrition Keys hoped the First Lady would endorse the label as part of her healthy eating program, she did not.
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