July 22, 2015

What Is The Point Of Labeling Food?

nutrition label for small business

It seems like the US government is sending out some mixed messages lately.  On the one hand, they devote time, energy, and – undoubtably – dollars to proposing new nutrition facts layouts for packaged food.  Similarly, they mandate that nutrition analysis must be available for consumers regardless of where they’re purchasing their products with the exception of small food establishments.  That’s all wonderful.  The more information the consumer has the better they can make choices for themselves and their families about what to eat.

And then there’s this that’s come out in the news lately:

  • The House of Representatives recently voted to take off the ‘Country of Origin’ labeling on meat products.  As the Wall Street Journal points out, since 2008 meatpackers have been required to label where the meat was born, raised and slaughtered. Now, I fully understand that his is not a simple matter and there are trade negotiations and other ‘bigger’ things at stake, but this vote would essentially make it impossible for consumers to know if their meat is coming from the US, Mexico, or Canada and, to some, this is an important part of their decision-making.
  • Following suit with the Country of Origin vote, the House also voted to ban – on a federal level – mandatory GMO labeling.  This, some argue, would supersede states’ rights so that even if certain states have mandated that GMO products be labeled as such, food companies would not have to comply.

I don’t mean this to be a debate about the merits or not of GMO products or the safety of meat both in the US and outside of it.  Rather, it seems ironic to me that at a time when consumers are demanding more insight and clarity around the food system, where their food is coming from, and what’s in the food products they eat, their representatives are trying to – for all intents and purposes – cloud the subject.

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