Food News Today Transcripts for the week of May 18th, 2011

May 20, 2011

A new study reveals that Americans are less worried about their weight than ever before, what is the future of food labels and why hemp farming is important. For May 18th, 2011. This is Food News Today

Good Morning. Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting and unbiased food news. Today’s program is prerecorded, as you watch this I am in Detroit discussing the challenges of communicating effectively with consumers about sustainability – so no live chat today – if you have any comments or questions about today’s program feel free to email me at

We start this morning with last week’s chat, where Cindy commented if we could solve the obesity crisis through nutrient dense, real foods….


In our consumer trends story this morning we are dismayed to discover that Many in the US No Longer Worry About Their Weight

A multi year study conducted by the nonprofit International Food Information Council (IFIC) recently found that less Americans are worried about their weight. The researchers, as are we, were surprised to find that concern about weight loss and overall perception of personal healthfulness is at an all time low. This is especially shocking because nutrition and leading a healthy lifestyle are of top mind in most food discussions both for shoppers as well as the food industry and certainly the White House.

The IFIC study found a plurality of respondents - 42% - do not even count calories, and on top of that more people admit that they’re not trying to balance the number of calories they eat and burn. Yet calories are the first thing that the participants said they look at on a nutrition label.

The study also found that 43% of Americans say they are sedentary as compared to last year’s 37%.

Fewer people in the survey considered themselves to be overweight (50% in 2011 vs. 57% in 2010) BUT their reported weights and heights place them in that category. Based on height and weight calculations, 34% are considered overweight and 34% are considered obese. It may be time to look in the mirror. Also alarming is that 57% of participants are concerned about their weight, which is down from 70% last year.

This study is alarming – we need to continue the fight against obesity and one of the first steps is for individuals to recognize the problem, and be empowered to use the tools to gain their health back. If we continue down this path, what’s next? 66% of Americans are currently overweight or obese, costing billions in health care expenditures. This study is clearly a call to action for all Americans. Our government, food industry and other groups are wasting 100s of millions of dollars trying to get healthy weight messages across and obviously they are not working. We need to hear clearly what consumers are saying.   

These survey respondents (as expected) reported that taste is the number one factor when choosing foods followed by price – the healthfulness of food ranked in third.  How can we empower Americans to recognize their issue and loose weight?  We need to demonstrate portion sizes, have more group activities (think of the success of weight watchers), more streamlined and easy to understand health and weight management information. This is a long-term behavioral change – this is not a quick fix! Perhaps people are getting tired of hearing about getting in shape and that’s why they have “given up” – it is no excuse and not acceptable. 


In Xtreme Retail We Take a Look at Printing Nutrition Labels on Food (Literally)

Food dyes have been hit hard lately; they were vaguely linked to attention disorders in kids, food intolerances, and even cancer (in animal studies). But now they are being used for more empowering educational purposes - printing nutrition labels on food. First debuted on the Martha Stewart TV show, the eggbot is the first printer that can draw images on spherical objects, transferring the design from a computer - which could even done at home. 

Far beyond the designing of eggs for Easter or other holidays, designers are experimenting with labeling foods. In a post on Thingiverse, a place to share and collaborate digital designs with the global tech community, one user, Dnewman, recently designed a nutrition facts label printed directly on an eggshell. Having nutrition facts panel labels directly on the foods makes them almost impossible to ignore. No question – this technology can be used to help people understand nutrition and health issues more readily. 

Now printing or stamping foods with ink is not a new idea, in fact the USDA currently stamps inspected cuts of meat with a grade or number. Consumers often do not see these stamps because they are found on the larger wholesale cuts of meat. If you’re worried about the dye, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service states that, “The dye used to stamp the grade and inspection marks onto a meat carcass is made from a food-grade vegetable dye and is not harmful.”  Innovating food labels can empower consumers to become avid label readers; the technology is at our fingertips.


In Washington a battle led by Ron Paul is about to take place. No, its not what you think – it's a battle over growing hemp.   

Currently growing hemp is illegal in the US but industrial hemp was grown in the US. From the 1600s until about the 1850s, hemp was a staple crop, and at times farmers were even required to grow hemp. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Henry Ford are among some notable Americans who were actively engaged in, and openly advocated for, the commercial hemp industry. Throughout the centuries, hemp was handled by the government the same as any other farm crop; the USDA had even published numerous articles and worked to help American farmers understand the best ways to grow industrial hemp. Despite this history, hemp has been defined by the U.S. government as a narcotic drug since the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was passed.

American history is intertwined with hemp farming, for instance, there are towns called Hempfield and Hempstead and… New Hampshire. 

For the fourth time since the federal government outlawed hemp farming in the United States over 50 years ago, a federal bill was introduced on May 11, which if passed, will remove restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis. The chief sponsor, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter last week seeking support for H.R. 1831, The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011.  

Why this hoopla over hemp? First off, it’s delicious; hemp seeds have a nutty flavor similar to pine nuts. Hemp is loaded with nutrients, with up to 35 percent of the hemp nut being protein. Most of this protein is edestin, a highly digestible storage protein, containing all of the essential amino acids as compared to meat proteins. The hempseed is one of the richest, most balanced sources of the essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. In fact, studies link many common ailments to an imbalance and deficiency of EFAs in the typical Western diet: too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3. And hemp allergies?  

The seeds also provide other phytonutrients, including phytosterols and carotenes, as well as vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. And today, hundreds of food products containing hemp are on supermarket and health food store shelves – the problem? Because of the federal law the hemp must be imported from Canada.

In the beginning of May, I was in NYC helping to celebrate Hemp History Week. As some of you may know I am a proponent of hemp foods and have been promoting them for many years. Hemp is NOT marijuana, industrial hemp and marijuana are both classified as Cannabis sativa, a species with hundreds of different varieties - a member of the mulberry family. Industrial hemp is bred to maximize fiber, seed and/or oil, while marijuana varieties seek to maximize THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Hemp is one of Earth's most sustainable, versatile, nutritive and profitable crops.  We urge you to find out more at hemphistoryweek – dot – com.

For Food News Today, I’m Phil Lempert, thanks for joining us. If you have a colleague in retailing, the media or a blogger who would like to also receive our advance email - please send them to to sign up. Next weeks stories will be in your Tuesday email.