Food Labeling Showdown

Within the span of seven days two articles about two new and disparate food labeling programs were published in the New York Times and the fact that these two efforts can co-exist is the greatest proof of the dichotomous nature of manufactured food. On the one hand we’ve got the Non-GMO project, an industry group attempting to fill the gaping hole in our labeling laws that do not require genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. True, some products say they contain no GMO, but there is no industry standard for the labeling, which can be confusing for the consumer.

According to the NYT article, The GMO Project will rigorously test natural and organic food to make sure it doesn’t exceed the 0.9 percent threshold for GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) content and then give the products their seal of approval in the form of a NON GMO Project VERIFIED label. Their concern is GMO crops sneaking into natural and organic products, exactly where they don’t belong. Look for the label on Whole Foods Market’s 365 stores brand starting this fall.

On the other hand we have the Smart Choices Program, a group largely backed by big food companies, but surprisingly has as its president the dean of Tufts University’s School of Nutrition Science and Policy, labeling products a  “Smart Choice” if they conform to the group’s nutrition standards. The article lists Froot Loops, mayonnaise and Fudgsicle bars as products qualifying for the “Smart Choice” label. My favorite line in the article is a quote from former Smart Choices board member Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He’s quoted as saying “You could start out with some sawdust, add calcium or Vitamin A and meet the criteria”.

Which program do you thing the FDA and Department of Agriculture will shut down first?

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