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The Food Industry Jumps The FDA, Releases Its Own Nutrition Guide

The Food Industry released its own set of nutrition guidelines, but the Obama administration is not convinced.

Nutrition Key

Photo: Grocery Manufactures Association

The Grocery Manufactures Association will include this key on all of their food packaging, but critics and lawmakers say it is confusing and deliberately misleading.

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Doing It For Themselves

Whether inspired by Michelle Obama’s praise for Walmart or nervous about the new dietary guides that the FDA plans to release, the Grocery Manufactures of America and the Food Marketing Institute recently decided to take nutrition labeling into their own hands.

Instead of waiting for the nutrition guide that the government commissioned from the Institute of Medicine, earlier this week the food industry leaders revealed their own front-of-pack labeling guide called Nutrition Keys.

The Nutrition Keys, which manufacturers will voluntarily put on the front of all food packaging, will show the amount of calories, fat, sodium, and total sugars as well as two positive vitamins present in the food. The industry leaders say that this will help consumers make smart choices about what they want to eat.

According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, they “stepped up to the plate in a big way…with 100 percent support” from the Let’s Move! campaign.

The Government Expresses Concern

The Obama administration thanked the companies for the leadership they showed in this health plan, but they “plan to monitor this initiative closely and will work with experts … to evaluate whether the label is meeting the needs of American consumers, and pursue improvements as needed.”

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro was more specific with her criticism, calling the move troubling and saying the FDA should not be swayed by this when developing its own guidelines:

Given that negative and positive nutrients will not be differentiated on the package, there is significant risk that these labels will be ignored. An adequate labeling system must clearly alert consumers about potentially unhealthy foods, and should not mislead them into believing that some foods are healthy when they clearly are not.

The concern is that the Nutrition Key labels will be confusing. For instance, will ice cream now be considered healthy because it has calcium?

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Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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