In order to understand the food industry’s real motives, it is important to look at how they react to public health policy.
By and large, industry’s words, promises, and pledges (especially at the annual Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conference) are usually carefully-crafted PR opportunities to tone down criticism. Walk around the expo floor at FNCE each year and you would think Kellogg’s, General Mills, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and McDonald’s are in the business of health.
One ongoing policy battle taking place this year revolves around the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposal to include “added sugars” on the Nutrition Facts label.
The scientific evidence on the harmful effects of too much added sugar is undeniable. Many health organizations and health experts support such a change, too. Alas, the food industry (including the same Academy partners who tell RDs how they want to be “part of the solution” every year at FNCE) is not so keen.
As this Washington Post article states:
“In a letter written on behalf of the American Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, American Frozen Foods Institute, Corn Refiners Association, International Dairy Foods Association and National Confectioners Association last month, the groups reached out to the FDA in what can only be interpreted as an effort to delay the proposed rule change. At the same public meeting held last week, a representative for the American Frozen Foods Institute said he believes “certain aspects of the proposal lack some merit, particularly the addition of added sugar.” Andrew Briscoe, the president of the Sugar Association, expressed reluctance about the additional labeling, too. “There is no preponderance of evidence to justify an added sugar label,” he said.
The reality is that Big Sugar is likely reeling in remembrance of what the addition of trans fat to labels in 2006 did to the ingredient (it’s now virtually non-existent). Evidence of sugar’s adverse effects on health is actually fairly preponderant. Several organizations, including the World Health Organization and American Heart Association, have warned against the harms of excess sugar intake, which has been linked to a number of diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And Americans, as it happens, have been particularly good about over-consuming the stuff.”
It is no surprise the the National Confectioners Association — AKA “the candy lobby” — would desperately try to shut down plans to have added sugar information on the Nutrition Facts label.
The article continues:
“An explicit, quantifiable measure of added sugar would help pack any and all potential for misinformation into a single, easily digestible line on the back of food products. Sure, from an industry perspective, an added sugar by any single, identifiable name might not sell as sweet, but that’s for Big Sugar to swallow — not the American populace.”
We agree wholeheartedly. And we sure wish the nation’s leading nutrition organization would lend its voice to this discussion and unabashedly take the side of public health. Perhaps it would be easier if Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and ConAgra weren’t Academy partners.