January is the month to look ahead, to make resolutions, maybe even to create some predictions. This January issue of Food Processing is filled with those sorts of things. Let me add to that list.
Two regulatory issues came into being January 1, although these are two that almost all food and beverage processors already have under control.
At the beginning of January most of you were required to use the new Nutrition Facts panel. Even by last Thanksgiving, it would have been difficult to find a package without the new label. So your acknowledgement of added sugars is already out there in public view. I wonder if any of you suspect you’re losing sales because of a high number on that line.
The other is labeling of genetically modified ingredients, or bioengineered (BE) food products. The “implementation date” of this new standard was January 1, except for small food processors, whose implementation date is January 1, 2021. I put “implementation date” in quotes because the complexity and variety of labeling schemes may require some do-overs; so the “mandatory” compliance date for both groups is Jan. 1, 2022. For this one, too, most processors already are making some kind of label declaration. Processors have several disclosure options: text, symbol, electronic or digital link, text message and more.
It won’t be long before you start hearing about the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It’s an exercise USDA and Health and Human Services, FDA’s parent, go through every five years to create a guide to healthful eating. The advisory committee is already meeting, and USDA’s goal is to issue the guidelines by the end of this year. Whether they move the needle is open to debate, but the 2010 and 2015 editions certainly helped the case for plant-based eating.
Usually, the word “trends” is followed by the phrase “that could reshape the food & beverage industry.” In most years, that’s just hyperbole, but there are a couple trends that have been brewing for a while that really live up to that ending phrase.
Like cannabis derivatives. On Jan. 1, pot became legal in Illinois, bringing the total to 11 states that allow recreational use. Through ballot initiatives or legislative action, a few more states may follow suit in 2020. While that alone doesn’t make its two main constituents, THC and CBD, permissible in foods and beverages, this inexorable tide puts pressure on the regulatory agencies to come to grips with the twin issues of national legalization and how these ingredients be used safely in food.
After a period of non-enforcement, the FDA sent warning letters around Thanksgiving to 15 companies reminding them CBD was not “generally recognized as safe” for foods. Not yet, anyway. But the agency also has promised to create “lawful pathways by which appropriate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds can be marketed.” FDA is expected to make some announcement to that end any day now.
Speaking of plants, no one would argue that plant-based foods, especially substitutes for animal-based products, will not continue to grow. In the past two months, there were two unfortunate victims of that trend. Dean Foods, the nation’s leading producer of fluid milk, filed for bankruptcy in November, and Borden Dairy did likewise in January. One thing that separates those two dairies from meat companies has been their resistance to develop nondairy products.
The days that cows rule the Earth may be coming to an end. Not just because their milk or meat can be replicated or substituted for, but because the world’s 1.5 billion cows (and billions of other grazing animals) emit dozens of polluting gases, including lots of methane and ammonia. Climate change deniers aside, they’re clearly a part of the greenhouse gas problem, and that’s a growing compulsion behind their replacement as food. Climate change will continue to be a hot topic in 2020.
Finally, I want to acknowledge two landmarks. One is that Food Processing just turned 80 years old – although we don’t look a day over 21. The other is that John Stanton – who has been associated with this magazine longer than anyone currently on its staff – is retiring as our marketing columnist. He has quite a following, and we owe him a huge thank-you for 22 years (on and off) of wisdom. Please take look at his farewell column.