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Global obesity: ‘We want to be part of the solution, not the problem’, says SFA president

By Kacey Culliney , 26-Mar-2013
Last updated on 02-Apr-2013 at 12:34 GMT2013-04-02T12:34:10Z

'There is an emphasis on diet, health and better for you products' among snack manufacturers, says McCarthy
'There is an emphasis on diet, health and better for you products' among snack manufacturers, says McCarthy

The president of the Snack Food Association (SFA) acknowledged that there are concerns about the snack industry’s role in global obesity but said healthy product development and clear communication on nutrition is top of the agenda for manufacturers.

James McCarthy, president and CEO of the SFA, was speaking exclusively to at Snaxpo 2013 – the international tradeshow and conference organized by the global association – about some of the toughest challenges facing industry.

“We do take the obesity issue seriously. We want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” McCarthy said.

“We as an industry have tried to address these concerns with participation and various programs that encourage children to get more exercise and urge our manufacturers that are providing snacks in schools to reduce the amount of fat, sodium and calories in general in those products.”

“But we also urge balance, variety, moderation in the diet overall and regular exercise like all nutritionists and health experts recommend.”

McCarthy said the SFA will provide comment to the US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) on the competitive food rule - set to limit calories, fat and sugar in snacks sold in vending machines and lunch menus in schools.

The SFA has also recently supported the Facts Up Front program – a voluntary labeling scheme that will require fat, calories, sodium and other nutrients to be listed front of pack in addition to the nutrient panel on the back.

The potato chip is still number one but 25% reduced sodium is common

Cutting fat and sodium in the regular potato chip…

The president said that developing healthier variants is a core focus among snack manufacturers in a bid to address obesity concerns on a broader scale. “There’s a lot of innovation in the traditional potato and tortilla chip products. There is an emphasis on diet, health and better for you products.”

While the classic potato chip continues to be the sector’s number one selling product, followed closely by the tortilla chip, he said manufacturers have developed 40% reduced-fat and 25% reduced-sodium products.

McCarthy said the SFA is currently reviewing new science on sodium to interpret the value behind the research. “We know that there are certain populations in the country that are more sensitive to sodium in their overall diet, and we are sensitive to that. But we are also concerned that lowering the sodium daily value is going to be problematic for good health, and we don’t think that lowering sodium is right for all consumers.”

Snack taxes – a solution?

The SFA is very opposed to snack taxes and will continue to lobby against them, McCarthy says

McCarthy said the SFA has long battled the challenge of snack taxes across the US.

“For close to 20 years now, we have fought and defeated snack taxes in the various states where they have arisen, from California to Maine, to Maryland and Washington DC. We’ve repealed all the snack taxes that have been acted in the country. And where snack taxes are brought up for consideration, we go in and testify and lobby against those taxes.

“We don’t think it’s fair that our products should be singled out for taxation. We believe that all foods contribute to the diet and that no foods in particular should be singled out.” 

The international voice

The SFA is the international trade association of the snack food industry representing over 400 snack manufacturers and suppliers worldwide. It has members in the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia.

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