In an online press release yesterday, the Grocery Manufacturing Association (GMA) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced a new labeling initiative for their member companies:
America's leading food and beverage manufacturers and retailers joined forces today in the fight against obesity and announced their commitment to develop a new front-of-package nutrition labeling system. The unprecedented consumer initiative will make it easier for busy consumers to make informed choices when they shop ... America's food and beverage manufacturers and retailers have agreed to support the change to their product labels with a $50 million consumer education campaign.
Forget the consumer-friendly rhetoric. There is only one explanation for this move: heading off the FDA's front-of-package (FOP) labeling initiatives.
Only two weeks ago, the Institute of Medicine released its first FDA-sponsored FOP labeling report. The IOM committee recommended that FOP symbols only mention calories, sodium, trans fat, and saturated fat. This led William Neuman of The New York Times to summarize its approach as: "Tell us how your products are bad for us."
GMA and FMI would much rather label their products with all the things that are good about them, like added vitamins, omega-3s, and fiber. If they must do negatives, they prefer "no trans fat" or "no cholesterol."