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Industry is taking healthy eating seriously, poll finds

By Alex McNally , 17-Jan-2008

The majority of food companies have already make considerable efforts to make their products healthier in the wake of rising obesity figures, a survey has found.

A staggering 92 percent of firms taking part in the Grocery Manufacturers Association's (GMA) poll said they are reformulating or introducing new products, which have reduced fat or sugar.

 

 

 

This has resulted in more than 10,000 products with nutritional improvements in the last five years, GMA said.

 

 

 

The majority have included reductions in saturated fat, trans fat, calorie, sugar and carbohydrate, as well as sodium reduction. Nearly 10 per cent of the reformulated products have been fortified with vitamins and minerals

 

 

 

Forty nine companies, representing some $250bn in annual sales - about half of the industry's total sales - took part in the GMA's Health and Wellness report.

 

 

 

GMA's survey shows the industry is responding to the challenge of cutting obesity, which in the US is a huge problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34 percent of adults aged 20 are overweight, and more than 70 million in the country are obese.

 

 

 

Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type-2 diabetes.

 

 

 

The GMA survey also shows that companies spent more than $40m a year supporting nutrition and health related activities.

 

 

 

A lot has been done to help reduce the number of obese people in the country over the last few years - but it is not all about cutting fat and sugar from food.

 

 

 

GMA has helped support an education program in schools. Literature has also been translated into Spanish to reach an Hispanic audience.

 

 

"On behalf of its member companies, GMA regularly advocates policy changes concerning health and wellness. In addition to testifying at both the state and federal levels, the industry has given public support to federal legislation that would help increase physical activity and improve nutrition," GMA said.

 

 

 

Nutrition labeling

 

 

Another major change the industry has worked on is improving the label information on food, the GMA said.

 

 

 

The group has made several recommendations to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on changes to the nutrition facts panel to make it easier for consumers to understand.

 

 

 

The FDA is considering changes to nutrition facts labels on food in order to bring recommendations up to date with new information on diet and health.

 

 

 

Components that could be affected include calories, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, protein and sodium.

 

 

 

The agency, which has not updated its percent daily value (DV) levels since 1995, is now reevaluating these in light of the latest national dietary guidelines, published in 2005, and the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) 2003 review of nutrients using the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) process.

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