The Grocery Manufacturers Assn. (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 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, reports the Atlantic Monthly. "There is only one explanation for this move: heading off the FDA's front-of-package (FOP) labeling initiatives." That follows the Institute of Medicine's first FDA-sponsored FOP labeling report, which recommended that FOP symbols only mention calories, sodium, trans fat, and saturated fat. 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." And they do not want the FDA to impose "traffic-light" symbols, continues the article. These U.K. symbols, which 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.The article concludes GMA and FMI demonstrate that the food industry will not willingly label its processed foods in ways that help the public make healthier food choices.I don't see why the industry should not tout its healthy ingredients in FOP labeling; it encourages investment in continuous improvement, and helps individual consumers make more informed choices for their families. And I don't think "traffic-light" symbols necessarily prove food is healthy or not. And while I'm at it, I don't believe the Food Guide Pyramid is based on provable science either.