Labeling - It's In, It's Out...

Consumers expect more information about the foods they consume, be it about how it was produced (was it made in the U.S?  Were farm workers paid a living wage?), the ingredients (is it organic? GMO?) or the nutritional quality (is it gluten-free? low sodium?).  There are so many factors that go into our decision-making about what foods to buy - economic, environmental, nutrition, taste...the list seems endless.  But providing information to consumers is one way for all of us to make informed decisions.  And where public health warrants it, to let consumers know which products may be better or worse for us.

Two things happened this week which put into jeopardy consumer's ability to get up front, easy-to-understand information about foods across settings, be it in chain restaurants or grocery stores.

The first: I told you last week that the sodium warning was to take effect this week, that a judge ordered it proceed.  But now the National Restaurant Association's take down of this symbol led a New York State judge yesterday to "prohibit enforcement of the measure while it is under judicial review."  In practice, this means that "While the court is deliberating, the health department will warn restaurants that are not complying with the rule, but will not issue fines."  It's expected we'll hear something from the courts by March 18th.

The second: GMO labeling.  It's been a subject of much debate, with a handful of states like Vermont passing mandatory labeling laws.  Now a bill that would instead set up a voluntary labeling system and preempt any state-led GMO labeling laws has passed the Senate Ag Committee. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) has pushed this through, with backing from industry players like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute.  On the other side of the fence sit the Just Label It! campaign and Stonyfield Farm., among others.

This isn't about telling consumers what they can and can't eat but is instead giving individuals the tools to be more informed, mindful eaters.