These diaries haven't been attracting too many comments. My apologies that I don't have any good sex scandals to write about in the world of food. All the same, the more participation there is, the better our end result will be.
Here's the third installment about labeling. I'm combining 2 topics into 1 diary: Added Sugars and State & Local Labeling Rights.
The reason for the long-winded diaries on labeling is because I feel that lobbying for more labeling will be popular enough with most Americans that we might have some success in asking for it. Unlike banning a food, labeling is seen as giving people more freedom and choice, not less. Of course, Big Business makes website after website calling the labeling requirements "burdonsome" and trying to fool consumers into writing their representatives to say we don't want labels...
Anyway, without further adieu...
I've posted this statement on the Recipe for America website ( http://www.recipeforamerica.org ). Please let me know what parts of it you agree/disagree with. It is meant to state the agreed upon position of the all of us, and I'd like it to represent more opinions than just mine.
In 1999, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to require that food labels declare how much added sugars foods contain. "Added sugars" refers to table sugar (sucrose), high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey, or other sweeteners added to a food. Reading the petition, one gets the sense it is about as gainful as the Morgan Freeman character’s parole hearings in The Shawshank Redemption; the FDA denied similar petitions from CSPI in 1986 and in 1993.
Currently, you can see total sugars on a food label, but there is no way for consumers to tell whether a food’s total sugars are naturally occurring or added. Take blueberry yogurt, for example. The label tells you the ingredients and the amount of total sugars, fat, and calories. You know yogurt has milk, blueberries, and a sweetener of some sort. Milk and blueberries each naturally contain sugar. If you are looking for the brand of yogurt with the least amount of added sugar, you have no way of knowing which one to pick! Labeling does not impose on the freedom of anyone to sell or eat junk, but it helps educate consumers and spread awareness about how they can make healthy choices.
Over the past several decades, Americans have replaced some of their sucrose habit with HFCS, but increased their total consumption of added sugars. Since its invention, per capita consumption of HFCS rose from nothing to 59.2 pounds per capita in 2004. At the same time, sucrose consumption fell from 101.8 pounds per capita in 1970 to 61.5 pounds per capita in 2004. Sucrose and HFCS consumption together in 2004 was 120.7 pounds per capita.
The impact the increase in added sugars we are enjoying has on our health is felt two ways – from what we are eating, and from what we are not eating. If you look at how we are eating all of these sugars, you will find that almost half the time we are drinking them: 33% of added sugars come from soft drinks, 10% of added sugars come from fruit drinks, and 3% of added sugars come from tea. Other sources are baked goods, dairy desserts, candy, and breakfast cereal. From that list, you can see that what we are eating (and drinking) is sugars, fat, sodium, preservatives, and artificial coloring and flavoring. What we are not eating is fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Citing osteoporosis, cancer, and heart disease as risks of such a diet, CSPI petitioned the FDA to establish a maximum Daily Reference Value of 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of added sugars, representing 10% of a 2000-calorie per day diet. CSPI did not pick the number 10% out of thin air; it is a worldwide standard – recognized by the WHO’s Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Health, and implicitly recommended by the USDA’s Food Pyramid. CSPI’s petition requested that the FDA formalize the USDA’s implicit recommendation as a Daily Value and then require that food labels reveal how much added sugars the food contains too.
The FDA denied the CSPI petition in 1986 and in 1993, giving reasons like lack of public interest in reducing consumption of added sugars, lack of conclusive evidence that sugar is associated with chronic disease conditions, and inability to distinguish between added sugars and naturally occurring ones. In other words, Americans don’t care about what they eat, eating junk isn’t unhealthy, and even if it was – we couldn’t enforce required labeling because we can’t tell how much added sugar is in foods anyway! As for that last one, how does the FDA regulate foods that are allowed to claim "No added sugar!" now?
In 1999, CSPI shot back with a 71-page (count ‘em) petition answering every single one of the FDA’s excuses for why added sugars are not labeled on foods. You can read the petition here: http://www.cspinet.org/... .
Recipe for America supports CSPI's call for required labeling of added sugars with a Daily Reference Value set at no more than 40g (10 teaspoons) per day, assuming a 2000-calorie diet. We see this as a first step to quantify how much added sugar qualifies a food as "high in sugar" so that future steps may be taken such as banning the advertisement of foods high in sugar during children's shows or forbidding foods high in sugar from making health claims on their labels.
As food companies try to resist new labeling initiatives at the federal level, they also try to use the federal government to prohibit individual states from adding labeling requirements of their own. Central to this debate in recent years are California’s Proposition 65, a 1986 law which requires businesses to provide warnings when they expose consumers to known reproductive toxins, and the National Uniformity for Food Act, a bill designed to override Prop 65.
The National Uniformity for Food Act was a bill backed by the Grocery Manufacturer’s of America, forbidding individual states from passing food-labeling requirements. Their stated goal was to make the laws more "fair" to food companies who could potentially have to create 50 different labels to follow the laws of the 50 different states. Of course, food companies could simplify such a dilemma by including all required information for every state on every label (e.g. if North Dakota requires X and South Dakota requires Y, the food company could print both X and Y on all labels and thus distribute to both North and South Dakota with no inconvenience). Their unstated goal, providing less information to consumers that may cast their products in an unfavorable light, would be accomplished by overriding Prop 65 and other current and future state laws like it.
The troubling part of overriding Prop 65 is two-fold: first, it would remove consumers’ ability to avoid foods containing toxins by reading their labels, and second, the National Uniformity for Food Act (or any similar future measure) impedes states’ rights. In 2006, the House overwhelmingly passed the National Uniformity for Food Act (HR 4167), but the Senate failed to vote on it. Recipe for America opposes the National Uniformity for Food Act or any other legislation that prohibits states and localities from passing their own food labeling requirements. For now, we can breathe easy – but keep an eye in the news for future legislation on this topic. No doubt the "other side" hasn’t given up!
For now, please comment on these topics here in this diary and I will edit the text on the Recipe for America website based on your feedback and critique. In the future, please check out the Recipe for America site, sign up, log in, and make comments there. Come on, we need a good, old fashioned pie fight! I've been interpretting your silence as agreement, and there's no way that a big bunch of liberals like us all agrees on everything :)