The following should be attributed to Roger Lowe, executive vice president of strategic communications at the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).
The POLITICO story relies heavily on nameless sources and former GMA staff who are out of touch with the organization’s work in recent years or who are eager to advance their own personal agenda. Those critics have little knowledge or interest in acknowledging GMA’s trailblazing work in transparency that gives people more information than could ever fit on a package label, its leadership on strong food safety regulations or its work with the Obama Administration – and now with the Trump Administration – on health and wellness, including front-of-pack labeling.
GMA and its employees are dedicated to the support of an American food system that delivers food grown sustainably and affordably so that GMA member companies can produce the product choices that consumers want as well as the tools and information to make the best choices for each family. We are proud of the results we have achieved and how these achievements serve American consumers. At the same time, we seek every year to continually improve how we serve our members and consumers.
Passage of the GMO disclosure law in 2016 was recognized as one of the top lobbying victories of the year. It’s no surprise that those who vigorously opposed this common-sense law – passed with widespread bipartisan support – would now try to tear down its significance. GMA led the industry’s successful campaign for passage by Congress of a uniform national standard for GMO disclosure, supported by a broad coalition of agriculture, processing, manufacturing and retailer groups. Our commitment to consumer transparency has continued this year as the rules are developed for the disclosure law. GMA and its members are firmly committed to product transparency for consumers. We strongly support the mandatory disclosure of refined ingredients derived from bioengineered crops under the federal bioengineered disclosure law. Consumer interest in bioengineered food reflects their questions about how a crop or ingredient was grown. Our recommendations to USDA call for the National Bioengineering Disclosure Law to provide consumers with a level of product transparency that will allow them to easily determine if a product has been sourced from a bioengineered crop.
The food industry is facing significant disruption and is evolving at an unprecedented pace. There’s no question that companies – and GMA – are all different today than they were five years ago, three years ago or even a year ago – and that we all will continue to evolve and change at a faster pace. Many brands that are part of GMA have been around for over 100 years because they stay close to their consumers, and they are evolving their companies to meet changing consumer needs. Not surprisingly, each company evolves differently, and sometimes that evolution is seen in their public policy positions. As a member-driven organization, GMA is evolving along with our member companies.
The Politico article’s disproportionate attention on issues where some companies differed over the years fails to give the proper focus on the many issues where the food, beverage and consumer products industry has come together through GMA on matters important to both consumers and companies – including product safety, transparency, uniform labeling laws and food waste:
- The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most comprehensive reform of our nation’s food safety laws in 70 years, and GMA and its member companies helped develop and pass FSMA to meet a common goal with FDA and with our customers of having the safest possible products. We have been very active on behalf of companies in working with FDA throughout the implementation of various FSMA rules.
- SmartLabel and Transparency – Consumers want more and more information about the food, beverage, personal care and household products they buy and consume. And our industry is doing something to meet that need with SmartLabel. GMA (along with FMI) spearheaded the creation of SmartLabel, which gives consumers easy access to more information than could ever fit on a package label. It is a modern label that enables consumers to get the information they want, when they want it. There are already more than 16,000 products using SmartLabel from 40 companies and 445 brands – and the number is constantly rising.
- Food Waste Reduction – GMA and FMI joined together on an initiative to streamline more than a dozen different product code dates to just two: BEST if Used By and USE By. This product code dating initiative earned widespread and bipartisan praise for reducing consumer confusion and food waste. It builds on our work on food waste through the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. GMA joined with retailers and the restaurant industry in 2011 to create FWRA, which identifies sources of food waste, ways to increase donations to food banks and cut the amount of food sent to landfills, and share ideas with other companies.
GMA is working with and on behalf of its members to build trust with consumers in our industry, advocate with government leaders on solutions that enhance the lives of consumers, collaborate with retailers to find ways to deliver products more efficiently and effectively, and to provide manufacturers with 21st Century capabilities and services to meet consumer needs, such as in food safety training and services, nutrition and labeling.