Trump Administration Supports Obama Era Menu Labeling And The Industry Is Blindsided

Can this be the food industry’s worst nightmare come true?

November 8, 2017

Originally published on Forbes.com.

Can this be the food industry’s worst nightmare come true?

First Lady Michelle Obama and the White House Chef Sam Kass tirelessly worked for years to urge the food industry to commit to producing healthier foods along with easier to decipher labeling on both foods and foodservice menus. Their hard work received a reprise yesterday from of all folks the Trump Administration.

When Donald Trump took office in January and then appointed Sonny Perdue as USDA Secretary many in “big food” sighed a breath of relief. After all, neither man is known for supporting healthier diets or stricter food regulations. In fact, in the first few months of the Administration we saw the Obama led changes to school lunch programs rolled back to eliminate the lower sodium and whole grains regulations and chocolate flavored milk with added sugar put back on menus. Earlier this month we witnessed the poultry industry’s lobbying to allow for faster speeds for inspection lines while historical data has shown that faster speeds lead to both food safety issues and worker injuries and illnesses as a result.

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration issued their jaw-dropping preliminary guidance  for the posting of calorie counts on menus and signage in restaurants, supermarkets, c-stores, pizza chains and vending machines to take place on May 7, 2018. The regulation will apply to foodservice establishments and supermarkets that have 20 or more locations.

Industry groups have fought this Federal legislation for years saying that it would add tremendous cost and complexity. Some states and cities across the nation including New York City have already implemented such laws requiring this information and national chains like Shake Shack, Chipotle and even McDonald’s have voluntarily posted the information. 

According to the FDA regulation “To help consumers better understand the new calorie listings in the context of a total daily diet, FDA is also requiring restaurants to include a statement on menus and menu boards reminding consumers that “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” And for food targeted to children the statement "1,200 to 1,400 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice for children ages 4 to 8 years and 1,400 to 2,000 calories a day for children ages 9 to 13 years, but calorie needs vary" must be listed.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has publicly said that FDA is "working on a broader policy initiative, looking at how we can use nutritional information as a way to prevent disease and death."

This positive move by this Administration, in light of other food and agriculture regulations that it has dismantled, is a breath of fresh air and exemplifies “doing the right thing.” We can only hope that this is the turning point that gets us back on track to continue to build on the great foundation that Michelle Obama built; and helps us all become more aware of the foods we eat and reverses the obesity trend.

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