Food Labeling Rule Threatens to Further Undermine Consumer Trust
Americans have already lost faith in big food brands, and the brands are only giving consumers more reasons not to trust them. In 2015, food, farm and biotechnology companies, and their trade association, spent more than $100 million to fight consumers’ right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown. Last year, the industry successfully delayed an update to the Nutrition Facts Panel on packaged foods.
The fight over food labeling is just one reason why some of the food industry’s leading companies have quit their trade association, which has led the fight against greater transparency. Some companies say they learned an important lesson. But many of those same companies are now sitting on the sidelines as the Trump administration implements the new GMO disclosure law passed by Congress in 2016.
President Trump’s proposed rule to implement the new law would force companies to use the word “bioengineered,” not the familiar words “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered,” and might exempt more than 70 percent of GMO foods from the disclosure requirement. The rule also fails to create meaningful requirements for digital disclosures, or provide practical options for consumers without smartphones or lousy cell service.
What have we heard in response from big food brands? Crickets.
That’s not just bad news for consumers, it’s also bad news for “natural” brands that may now be forced to use government-mandated weasel words.
If the final rule allows made-up words like “bioengineered” or permits the use of QR codes that don’t consistently scan, consumers won’t blame President Trump. They won’t know it was the government that forced food companies to use agitprop or old-school tech.
Standing in the aisle, searching for better cell service, they’ll blame the big brands.