As much as the food industry likes to position itself as “being part of the solution,” its daily actions contradict that.
Following the release of the FDA’s proposed new Nutrition Facts label last week, industry has been in full-on defense mode, so much so that it (via the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute) is pouring $50 million — mere pennies from a food industry standpoint — into reviving Facts Up Front, a front-of-package labeling system that brings absolutely nothing new to the table (it simply repeats what is already on the Nutrition Facts label).
Some brief history of Facts Up Front, courtesy of Dr. Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog:
“Facts Up Front (formerly known as Nutrition Keys), was originally launched as an end run around what the FDA was then trying to do with front-of-package labeling initiatives. This happened early in 2011.
The GMA/FMI ploy brought the FDA’s initiatives to a halt—despite the agency’s investment in two Institute of Medicine (IOM) studies to establish a research basis for front-of-package labels.
These, in turn, followed on the heels of the food industry’s ill-fated Smart Choices—an attempt to promote highly processed foods as healthy.
GMA/FMI’s goal was to head off any possibility that the FDA would mandate red, yellow, and green traffic light signals.
Red signals might discourage consumers from buying products made by the companies GMA and FMI represent.
The food industry had cause to worry. The IOM was considering—and eventually published—a front-of-package scheme similar to traffic lights. It used checks or stars to evaluate the content of calories, saturated and trans fat, sodium, and sugars, all nutrients to watch out for.
GMA/FMI got its much more complicated—and, therefore, harder to understand—Nutrition Keys out first. This preempted the IOM recommendations.
The FDA gave up. The two IOM reports went into a drawer and the FDA has done nothing with them.”
This revival of Facts Up Front is industry’s attempt to gain control of messaging at a time where, slowly but surely, it is coming under more scrutiny for its role in deceptive marketing and contributing to the current public health crisis.
As Dr. Nestle explains:
“What’s wrong with Facts Up Front?
The Institute of Medicine recommended that front-of-package labels be:
• Simple: easy to understand
• Interpretive: putting judgments in context
• Scaled: indicating good, better, and best
Facts Up Front does none of the above.
Facts Up Front is a tool for selling, not buying.
Its purpose is to make highly processed foods look healthier, whether or not they really are.”
Note, by the way, that Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics partners Kellogg’s, General Mills, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola are all members of GMA and FMI.