3 Food Industry Pushbacks on Health and Labeling

Three food industry pushbacks on recent health and labeling initiatives are taking shape.

  1. A $50 Million Ad Campaign. The Grocery Manufacturers Association is planning a campaign to promote their Facts Up Front labeling initiative. The industry likes it because it’s totally voluntary and flexible enough to make room for health marketing claims, in addition to the basics of calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.
  2. Increased Federal Lobbying. Politico reports that the food and beverage industry has responded to increasing pressures with record spending on federal lobbying — $185 million between 2009 and 2013. Expect even more in 2014.
  3. Pushback on Added Sugar and Serving Sizes. Keep Food Legal (don’t you love that name for an advocacy group?) stepped up to criticize the new Nutrition Facts label proposal, calling it a product of “pointy headed academics.” The spokesperson who offered these comments is a professor at American University. Both added sugar and serving size guidance are especially problematic for the industry because consumers are very sensitive to sugars and it’s showing up in sales drops for vulnerable products. New serving sizes will make things worse, in some cases doubling the calories and sugar on the label per serving.

The industry itself has been cautious about the labeling proposal. Publicly they welcome it. Privately, industry insiders say that some companies will fight tooth and nail on the details.

Phil Lempert, a food marketing expert and industry analyst says consumers will drive changes that industry will be hard-pressed to resist. He says:

Consumers are paying a lot of attention to sugars. What I know is that the first lady, Sam Kass [executive director of Let’s Move!] and the whole group have been working on this for a while. They did their homework.

It’s hard to look at the simplicity of the changes to the nutrition facts label and see them as anything but sensible. The huffing and puffing from folks at Keep Foods Legal is a bit insulting to our intelligence.

Click here and here to read more in Politico.

Low Carb Sugar Free, photograph © MTSOfan / flickr

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