Food Labeling Mandatory Food Labeling Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

The specifications about label placement were "to reduce consumer confusion about food labels, to aid them in making healthy food choices" and the act as a whole was supposed to encourage manufactures to engage in healthy product innovation by giving manufacturers an incentive to improve the quality of the food and make more healthy food choices available (Wilkening 1993:1).

However, no label can be comprehensive and the 1993 legislation reflects the stress upon low-fat dieting for good health. Of the 14 mandatory nutrients required on labels "the order in which they must be listed" were as follows: "calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin a, vitamin C, calcium and iron" (Wilkening, 1993:2). The requirement to list B. vitamins was eliminated as it was deemed deficiencies of B. vitamins was not a public health problem in the United States and it was more important that consumers be informed of a product's saturated fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber and sugars. "The revised order places nutrients currently of greatest public health significance first" (Wilkening, 1993:2). Additionally, recommended daily values of all nutrients were posted, but these were based on an average 2,000 calorie a day, low fat diet, which may not be appropriate for all Americans, rather this figure reflected the ideal, daily diet envisioned by the nutritionists and diet gurus such as Dean Ornish and other low-fat health advocates who supported the legislation.

Controversy still exists in food labeling -- and confusion. Part of this confusion is also due to the fact that not simply the FDA regulates food labeling and production. In terms of the controversy of what makes a product organic, it is the U.S. Department of Agriculture that stipulates a product is organic only if it does the following: prohibit the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms in organic production, reflect eliminates national list of allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances, does not use antibiotics in organic meat and poultry; and uses100% organic feed for organic livestock ("How to Read USDA Organic Labels," 2007, Organic Trade Association).

This is another example of how legislation, as was reflected in its advocacy, is in the interest of organic farmers, like labeling margarine as margarine was favorable to the dairy industry, unlike nutritional labeling, which was resisted by food producers who wished to have more leeway in the use of terms such as healthy, low fat, or in making nutritional claims for their food products. Thus, in the history of the United States, no one interest group or coalition emerges as a single voice in favor of food labeling. Rather, it is a question of what interest group will benefit from highlighting certain aspects of a product's content. Organic food producers that adhere to strict standards benefit from regulations that prevent more lax farmers from labeling their foods as organic. In some instances, such as more transparent nutritional legislation, food industry lobbyists have opposed the measure, given that they could not conceal unflattering product aspects (such as a high caloric content) with artificially small serving sizes or inconspicuously placed labels. However, even in this case, nutritionists and consumer advocates who supported the legislation also had an agenda, in terms of the low-fat diet that was being 'sold' by the majority of that particular community. The struggle over food labeling in America highlights that there are few absolutes about the ideal diet, and even something that seems like it should be objective, like caloric content or freedom from artificial pesticides, can be subject to political influences.

Works Cited

Guide to Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) Requirements." (Aug 1994).

FDA. Editorial Changes Feb 1995. Retrieved 18 Mar 2007 at

How to Read USDA Organic Labels." (2007) Organic Trade Association.

Law, Marc. (12 Oct 2004) "History of Food and Drug Regulation in the United States."

EH.Net Encyclopedia. Edited by Robert Whaples. Retrieved 18 Mar 2007 at http:/ /

Wilkening, Virginian L. (1993) "FDA's regulations to implement the NLEA - Nutrition

Labeling and Education Act."

Nutrition Today. Retrieved 18 Mar 2007 at

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