Moms Across America and other consumer groups launched a national campaign today asking food producers to do a better job labeling their products, even if the Food and Drug Administration refuses to require it. Recent moves by the FDA and USDA to allow ingredient substitutions during the shutdown without updating labels and not regulating GMOs are leaving consumers uninformed about the products they consume.
The FDA’s announcement to allow food companies to switch out food ingredients applies to ingredients less than 2% of the total food weight and “similar” ingredients such as sunflower and canola oil. The substitutions of these ingredients clearly put the 1 out of 13 children in America with allergies and growing numbers of adults at risk of harm or death.
I believe these changes are outrageous. Allowing unlabeled ingredients, no matter what they are, can harm or kill certain children and destroy the long-term integrity of our food supply, both nationally and internationally. During this pandemic, economic loss and at a time when we have unequal access to healthy food in minority-dominated areas, we need more integrity and safety, not less.
While there is job loss and lack of insurance many families are less likely to call an ambulance or get hospital care during a food allergy reaction, increasing the risk of death. The government has failed to regulate the food supply and protect the health of the American people and people around the world. If actions are not taken by food producers, our health, the integrity of our food supply and international trade relations will continue to be threatened. This is the time for food producers to do better than the FDA, not only because people will find out who did the right thing, but because it is the right thing to do.
As part of the campaign, which also includes a letter writing push by members, allied consumer, health and farmer groups sent an open letter to the top 50 food producers in the U.S. to rectify this situation.
The letter asks for food producers to respond to consumers by June 19, stating if they will do any of the following:
- Maintain the accuracy of food labels during the shutdown—not allow substitutions of food ingredients without updating labels.
- Announce their position on GMOs. Will they agree not to grow or include GMOs and ingredients utilizing these technologies in their food products?
- If they do choose to use GMOs, to clearly label them on the package.
- If, as food manufacturers, they will consider making the changes as listed in the Moms Across America Gold Standard which include supporting regenerative agriculture and creating food that is not only good for our families but good for the planet as well.
- If, as food manufacturers, they will request that their suppliers and commodity growers switch at least 1% of crop acreage to regenerative organic mixed vegetables and thereby increase access to local food by 50%.
- If they will donate 1% of sales to support organizations that support local food security; school, church and community gardens and local involvement.
These changes could not only support the recovery of trust in food brands and Americans' health and immune systems during these challenging times, but also could help prevent further pandemics. The CDC reports show that Americans with preexisting health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and autoimmune conditions, that are all related to diet, are more likely to succumb to COVID-19 symptoms and death. Clearly, any action a food company can take to improve the quality of their food offerings is now a matter of national security.
Zego, a food company dedicated to providing allergen-free products, is calling for food producers and consumers to also comment directly to the FDA.
American food producers and manufacturers could also be international leaders and help restore trust in the food supply globally, preventing future breakdowns in international trade and disruptions to the American economy. With a few changes food producers could be a part of protecting and restoring our health and economy, nationally and globally, for generations to come.
The signers of the original letter include the following consumer, farmer, environmental and health advocacy organizations:
- Moms Across America.
- Epidemic Answers, Beth Lambert, executive director.
- Farmworker Association of Florida, Jeannie Economos, health and safety project coordinator.
- Art Dunham, doctor of veterinary medicine.
- Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, John Steven Bianucci, director of conservation.
- National Health Federation, Scott Tips, president.
- Organic Consumers Association, Alexis Baden-Mayer.
- National Toxic Encephalopathy Foundation, Angel De Fazio, BSAT, president and executive director.
- Californians for Pesticide Reform, Sarah Aird and Jane Sellen.
- Clean Power Lake County, Dulce Ortiz, co-chair.
- Dr. Yolanda Whyte Pediatrics, Yolanda Whyte, MD, president.