What the FDA Promises to Do About Obesity Over the Next 5 Years

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Marion Nestle takes a close look at the FDA's goals around giving consumers more information about the food that they are eating.

Food Politics
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Ordinarily I find government plans of this type to be soporific but this one is especially well written and well thought out (with some caveats).

The report is a statement of FDA commitment to what it is going to do in the next four years in food areas that affect people and animals. It includes many promises, among them this one of particular interest:

Program Goal 4: Provide accurate and useful information so consumers can choose a healthier diet and reduce the risk of chronic disease and obesity

Objective 1. Update the Nutrition Facts label.

  • Publish proposed rules updating the nutrition facts label and serving sizes [OK, but by when?].
  • Publish final rules updating the nutrition facts label and serving sizes [Ditto].

Objective 2. Implement menu and vending machine labeling regulations.

  • Publish final menu and vending machine labeling regulations [OK, but by when?].
  • Collaborate with states, localities and other partners to ensure high rates of compliance.

Objective 3. Improve consumer access to and use of nutrition information.

  • Explore front‐of‐pack nutrition labeling opportunities [Explore? See comment below].
  • Collaborate with public/private sector parties on nutrition education [Collaborate? See comment below].
  • Implement updated standards for the labeling of pet food including nutrition and ingredient information [How about a Pet Facts label for pet foods that someone might actually be able to understand?].
  • Implement standards for animal feed ingredients.
  • Publish final rule defining and permitting use of the term "gluten free" in the labeling of foods.

Goal-setting processes usually include dates by which the objectives are to be completed. These do not, which suggests that the FDA can continue to delay action until 2016.

I also do not understand what is meant by "Explore front‐of‐pack nutrition labeling opportunities." Explore? The FDA has already sponsored two Institute of Medicine reports on front-of-pack labeling. Does this mean the agency is ignoring them and intends further research?

And "Collaborate with public/private sector parties on nutrition education?" What does the FDA have in mind for the content of such education? You can bet that no collaborative campaign can focus on "don't drink your calories."

FDA needs to deliver on these items, and sooner rather than later. This year? I'm not counting on it.

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This post originally appeared on Food Politics, an Atlantic partner site.



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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.

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