State of the Food Industry 2011: End of Recession Changes Everything … or Nothing
U.S. food industry faces a tough road ahead.
By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor, and Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief | 12/21/2010
Perhaps the biggest point in the act is one that shocked most Americans: The FDA did not have the authority to order a recall of suspected tainted food. That loophole is no longer the case.
"The legislation has a variety of new changes that will improve the safety of the food system from farm to fork," says Bob Gravani, professor of food science at Cornell University and current president of the Institute of Food Technologists. "Four elements of this legislation are critical to protecting the food supply for generations to come:
- "Product Tracing — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be required to establish a comprehensive product tracing system to track the movement of food products effectively from farm to point of sale or service. As IFT pointed out in a report issued to the FDA, a product tracing system would make it possible to identify the source of foodborne illness outbreaks earlier as well as contain the outbreak faster.
- "Performance Standards — In order to continually reduce the risk of contaminants in foods, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will identify and determine the most significant foodborne contaminants and develop science-based guidance to assist food producers. As a result, action levels (performance standards) will be set in place to encourage the food industry to strive toward a safer food supply.
- "Third Party Certification — Designated imported foods will now need to be certified by a third party with expertise in food safety and under the oversight of the FDA. This will enable the FDA to maximize resources and increase the number of product inspections to better ensure the safety of imported foods.
- "Preventive Control Plans — Food manufacturing facilities will be required to develop and implement written plans based upon science that evaluate hazards that could affect the safety of food; identify and implement preventive controls; monitor the performance of these controls; and maintain records of such monitoring."
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year roughly one out of six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.
New Dietary Guidelines
Another last-minute piece of regulation was the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. USDA and HHS were rushing to finish the final document by the mandated year end, so we haven't seen it yet. But it should mirror last summer's draft, which suggested slashing sodium, reducing fats and added sugars and upping Americans' intake of plant-based foods.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), made up of 13 nongovernment nutrition experts, had been holding public hearings since October 2008. In June 2010, it published its recommendation report, which included four major findings to improve the dietary health of Americans:
- Reduce the incidence and prevalence of overweight and obesity of the U.S. population by reducing overall calorie intake and increasing physical activity.
- Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. In addition, increase the intake of seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products and consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and eggs.
- Significantly reduce intake of foods containing added sugars and solid fats; reduce sodium intake and lower intake of refined grains, especially refined grains that are coupled with added sugar, solid fat and sodium.
- Meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
The committee recommended a gradual reduction in sodium intake to 1,500mg per day from the 2,300 mg recommended in 2005, as well as limiting dietary cholesterol to less than 300mg per day (with a further goal of less than 200mg per day for persons at risk for cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes). The reduction in sodium was foreseen, as nearly every leading food processor already has announced reformulations that take sodium out of their processed foods.
The DGAC strongly recommended USDA and HHS convene committees, potentially through the Institute of Medicine, to develop strategic plans focusing on the actions needed to successfully implement the recommendations.
As mandated by Congress, the Dietary Guidelines are reviewed for revision every five years (since 1980). The Food Guide Pyramid, called MyPyramid in recent years, will likely receive a facelift, as well.
The 2010 committee notes in its introduction that this year's report "addresses an American public of whom the majority are overweight or obese and yet under-nourished in several key nutrients." Potassium, in particular, was singled out as being a shortage in the average diet.
(Interestingly, the DGAC report also noted "an average daily intake of one to two alcoholic beverages is associated with the lowest all-cause mortality and a low risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease among middle-aged and older adults." So bottoms up!)
Battling Child Obesity
A large part of the new Dietary Guidelines will be devoted to the issue of childhood obesity. Michelle Obama has made it her pet project as First Lady. And as complaints from the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission and Institute of Medicine over the past two years indicate, much of the blame is being laid on the food & beverage industry.
The problem is on everyone's radar – many call it our nation's biggest health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 6.5 percent of children ages 6-11 were obese in 1980. By 2008, the obesity rate for this group rose to 19.6 percent, meaning almost one out of every five American children is considered obese.