How the Food Lobby Killed Britain's FDA

Nestle_FSA_7-12_post.jpg

Du Tran/flickr


As City University professor Tim Lang explained, which government is in power in the U.K. makes a big difference.

The new government is not wasting a minute before caving in to food industry demands.

First the government promised the food industry no new regulations. Now it is eliminating the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which is more or less the equivalent of our FDA. How come?

Would you believe front-of-package food labels?

According to the account in The Guardian, this is happening because the FSA "fought a running battle with industry over the introduction of colour-coded 'traffic light' warnings for groceries, TV dinners and snacks."

The FSA has led calls for the Europe-wide introduction of a traffic light system that required food companies to label the front of their products with red, amber or green symbols to denote the amounts of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar contained per serving. The agency ... said this was the best way to allow Europe's increasingly obese shoppers to make informed decisions about the food they bought.

The British Medical Association, British Dietetic Association and British Heart Foundation are among health groups that supported the scheme ... But traffic light labelling was buried by the European parliament last month, when MEPs backed a rival system favoured by multinationals such as Nestlé, Kraft and Danone.

The industry advocated "guideline daily amounts", a system that listed percentages of recommended daily allowances included in each serving.

The food industry spent an estimated £830m on lobbying to stop the traffic lights scheme, which enjoyed a level of popularity with consumers because it was relatively easy to understand.

Note: That's $1.247 billion to defeat traffic lights. Why? Because consumers know they aren't supposed to buy products labeled with red dots. The food industry much prefers the incomprehensible Guideline Daily Amounts like the ones that Kellogg and General Mills were quick to put on their cereal boxes.

Getting rid of traffic lights was not enough. The food industry is so angry with FSA over the traffic light proposal that it lobbied the new government to axe the agency.

Mission accomplished (or maybe not).

Addition: Even responsible food industry commentators think this is a bad idea:

As regards the proposed splitting up of the FSA—we only have to look to the number of food safety scares in the U.S. to see the consequences of its fragmented food safety approach.

So instead of putting the food watchdog to sleep, shouldn't the U.K .government instead give it more teeth?
Presented by

Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

The Best 71-Second Animation You'll Watch Today

A rock monster tries to save a village from destruction.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Best 71-Second Animation You'll Watch Today

A rock monster tries to save a village from destruction.

Video

The Case for Napping at Work

Most Americans don't get enough sleep. More and more employers are trying to help address that.

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

Video

Stunning GoPro Footage of a Wildfire

In the field with America’s elite Native American firefighting crew

More in Health

From This Author

Just In