The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) joined together last week to “fight against obesity” by announcing their commitment to develop a front-of-package labeling system.
The agencies promised a labeling system that will ease customers’ shopping woes by adding nutritional information to the front of the package.
“This is a landmark step forward in the industry’s commitment to help address the obesity challenge,” said David Mackay, president and chief executive officer of Kellogg Company. “It represents the most significant change to food labels in the United States in nearly 20 years. And our commitment to an ambitious consumer education campaign will amplify the impact the labeling change will have in households across the country.”
The transparent marketing move by two hypocritical agencies tries to sell itself as a health initiative, but instead, it was simply a ploy to steal the thunder from the Food and Drug Administration, which promised to develop guidelines regarding calorie and nutrient labeling on the front of food packages.
Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret Hamburg, M.D., urged food manufacturers to use truthful and honest front-of-packaging policies last year by ensuring they were in compliance with FDA regulations.
“Ready access to reliable information about the calorie and nutrient content of food is even more important, given the prevalence of obesity and diet-related diseases in the United States,” Hamburg said.
GMA and FMI pre-empted the FDA, and even though it won’t hold as “official policy,” it will continue to confuse consumers until the FDA creates the new regulations.
GMA positions itself as an industry leader in promoting health and wellness, but the idea that health is a concern to either GMA or FMI is laughable.
Some of the board members for GMA include executives from Nestle USA, Inc., Sara Lee Corporation, Coca-Cola North America, Mars Incorporated, The Hershey Company and Kraft Foods Inc. The board of directors reads like the health and diet industry’s Most Wanted list—hardly the group to be creating FOP (front of packaging) crusades based on the premise of health.
GMA and FMI promise to provide customers with “information on nutrients to build a ‘nutrient-dense’ diet and on ‘shortfall nutrients’ that are under-consumed in the diets of most Americans.”
Sounds good, right? Not really. Now food companies will be boosting up nutrient levels to boast about them on the front of the package while they hide the fat and sugar content on the back.
I can’t wait until I see “Twinkies—a good source of Omega-3s.”
Food politics expert Marion Nestle got it right: “FOP labels are about marketing, not health … This scheme, like the many others developed by food companies singly or together, is designed to help the public decide whether one highly processed, packaged food product is nutritionally better than another.”