Monday, April 29, 2013 by Lee Mannering
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Consumer Federation of America’s 2013 Food Policy Conference. I’ve attended this meeting before and always came away with some valuable information and insights to share with colleagues and members. This year’s program addressed a number of key issues ranging from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), food waste, immigration reform, and nutrition topics. Here’s a recap of what I heard and learned:
- On FSMA, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Mike Taylor shared his thoughts on FSMA implementation with Food Safety News’ Helena Bottemiller. They discussed a variety of areas including the reworking of produce exemptions (FDA seeking industry comment on these), resource constraints (FDA considering fees to fill funding gaps, though industry is opposed to this tactic), and OMB deletions of environmental and product testing from the proposed rules (FDA seeks expertise on these issues and anticipates them being in the final rules).
- On nutrition labeling, Taylor said final menu labeling rules should be published by the end of the year, while front-of-the-pack labeling rules are being considered by the agency along with a proposed rule to update the Nutrition Facts label (expected in 2014).
- With regard to consumer trends, Kate Weigle from Edelman shared that 79 percent of consumers said their budget reflects their food purchasing decisions; 68 percent believe healthful foods are too expensive. Also, 95 percent of men and 98 percent of women think about the nutrients meals provide their family. Seventy-two percent of men and 73 percent of women try to purchase food raised or grown locally.
- On kids and branded food items, a representative from the Rudd Center at Yale University said that the effect of a licensed character on food does have an impact. Their child research revealed that kids think branded food tastes better (even though it was the exact same as non-branded food).
- Concerning food waste, an Environmental Protection Agency representative discussed the agency’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, with a focus on the top two tiers (source reduction and donation). The Food Marketing Institute shared that consumer misunderstanding of sell-by/use-by dates is a key contributing factor to food waste, followed by the Natural Resources Defense Council stating that, in the United Kingdom, one retailer is printing storage and handling information on their produce department bags.
- The immigration session was interesting (especially in light of what was happening on Capitol Hill that day). Call me biased, but the standout panelist was Maureen Torrey of Torrey Farms. Her emotional story of dealing with farm labor issues and I-9 audits and enforcement measures held the audience’s attention until she had finished – which was met with a well-deserved round of applause.
In all, it was a very informative meeting and if you’d like additional information on any of the items above, please feel free to connect with me on PMA Xchange.