New industry body aims to quell consumer food fears

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food Nutrition

A group of US food industry bodies has launched a new organization
designed to promote consumer understanding and trust of the
country's food system.

Created at a time of increasing consumer skepticism of food production methods, the Center for Food Integrity has already been accused of being an attempt by the industry to cover up its "issues" with public relations.

The new non-profit organization was created by combining the existing industry groups Best Food Nation and the Grow America Project.

According to Andy Miller, director of Indiana State Department of Agriculture, which is a supporter of the organization, the Center for Food Integrity's primary mission is to "engage with stakeholders, model practices that build trust with consumers, and share accurate, balanced information about the US food system".

"The Center for Food Integrity will be a resource where consumers and other stakeholders can find information about the food system and discuss important issues," said Miller.

Currently, the group has the support of 20 organizations, ranging from farmers and processors, through to distributors and government.

Member organizations include the American Egg Board, Elanco Animal Health, Monsanto, National Milk Producers Federation and the National Pork Board.

Topics on the group's agenda include health and nutrition, food safety, worker care, environment, and food animal well being.

Through an examination of these topics, the organization claims it will be "providing leadership in building consumer trust and confidence in the contemporary US food system."

But according to groups like the Center for Food Safety (CFS), which aims to stem agricultural production methods that harm human health and the environment, the new initiative is "the creation of a PR entity to try and battle regulations designed to create a safer food supply".

"My suspicion is that the food industry is concerned that more regulatory oversight is coming its way.

This is a way for it to promote its agenda under a green wash label," said legal director of CFS Joseph Mendelson.

"Under the guise of promoting consumer education, the group is trying to promote self regulation over the food supply without really addressing some of the concerns that consumers have," he told

The Center for Food Integrity was not available for immediate comment.

However, in a statement the owner of Fair Oaks Dairy Farm, which is a member organization, said, "we know that we need to continually enhance our production methods to make sure they are aligned with societal expectations.

But most importantly, we want to establish a culture of trust and transparency that ensures the availability of safe, abundant and affordable food."

According to Mendelson, it is "no coincidence" that the name chosen for the new organization is so similar to that of the Canter for Food Safety.

"The name was obviously chosen to try to distract attention from groups like ours and to confuse consumers," he said.

Indeed, Best Food Nation, which was one of the groups that merged into the newly created Center for Food integrity, was itself a carefully named reaction to the movie Fast Food Nation.

The industry's initiative claimed to provide fact-based responses to the concerns raised in the movie, which had resulted in a surge of bad publicity for the food industry, Other member organizations of the Center for Food Integrity include The American Farm Bureau Federation, Countrymark Cooperative, Fair Oaks Dairy Farm, Indiana Packers Corporation, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Maple Leaf Farms, National Chicken Council, National Council of Chain Restaurants, National Pork Producers Council, National Restaurant Association, National Turkey Federation, Produce Marketing Association, Purdue University, United Egg Producers, and United Soybean Board.

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