The conversation around food labeling whether online or off tends to turn into a contentious debate. This issue is not new to Farm Bureau members. We have had valid discussions in recent years about the labeling of genetically modified organisms and included a policy position in the 2015 WFBF Policy Book.
What do food labels really mean? What actions should or could be taken to address the issue?
The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are largely responsible for the labeling of products (packaged or fresh) that are either domestically produced or imported. Some food labels adhere to strict federal guidelines; for example, the Nutrition Facts panel that is closely regulated by the FDA. Much of what appears on food packaging, however, is only loosely regulated, difficult to verify or misleading.
To be clear, the debate isn’t whether organic food is better or not, but whether there should be definitions, regulations and strict enforcement of labels. For instance, the USDA has no official definition for the term “all natural.” Should they? If so, why? What should it be?
These are questions that could and should be asked for many food labels. But it isn’t always whether these terms have a legal definition or not, but rather how the wording may be used to insinuate, mislead, deceive or imply superiority.
• Free range/free roaming/cage free
• Antibiotic free
• Grass fed/pasture raised
• No added hormone
• Organic/100 % organic/made with organic ingredients
• Natural/all natural
• Fair trade
• GMO free/non-GMO project certified
• Gluten free (on non-grain products)
• Pesticide free/herbicide free
• Vegetarian fed hens
• Sustainably grown
• Certified humane raised and handled
• Animal welfare approved
Considering the policy already in place cited in the reference section, do we need more regulation when it comes to the labeling of agricultural food products?
If you believe we need more regulation, should it be voluntary-based or USDA-FDA enforced?
Should labels using third-party certifications be regulated by USDA-FDA?
Is it the federal government’s role to regulate manufacturers on every statement made on a label?
Wisconsin Farm Bureau members – Please discuss your viewpoints below in the comments section.
*Note: only comments from Wisconsin Farm Bureau members will be approved.
Read the full issue backgrounder: Labeling and Marketing Issue Backgrounder.
Emily Duesterbeck says
As part of an allergy prone family (to unusual and very minuet amounts sometimes) I would like to see ALL the INGREDIENTS in a product listed, as well as all the other information, since I cannot control or produce All my food. Allergies are becoming much more common due to all the items in, or involved in, the food processing. It certainly helps my buying decisions. I dislike having to call a company to find out what is covered with the listing: spices, other natural ingredients, etc.and find out that I SHOULD NOT have purchased that product. We are entitled to know as much as possible about our food. I believe the USDA-FDA should be the party in charge of enforcing the labeling and regulating of our food, with clear guidelines as to what each “label” means. Some foreign countries do not allow certain items/production methods for food to be sold in their countries. (Maybe because they are aware of the health consequences) It might be a good idea to check out their reasoning and maybe do the same in this country.