The “right to know” is the rallying cry of more and more Americans who are fed up with our unappetizing, unhealthy, secretive food system. Consumers are demanding that Big Food/Ag draw back the curtain on unsavory industry practices, shocking nutritional information and unlabeled ingredients. So what’s industry’s response? They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to keep consumers in the dark.
The “right to know” movement is currently on fire in California where Proposition 37, if passed, will mandate the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. Industry is spending millions to derail the measure because passage of GMO labeling in the nation’s most populated state will mean that GMO ingredients will be labeled nationwide.
A federal menu labeling law, which mandates calorie counts on menus and menu boards at chain food establishments, is in the FDA rule writing stage, yet certain industry sectors are lobbying fiercely to be exempted. Pizza chains, movie theaters, groceries and convenience stores are demanding exemptions, even though Congress specified that these sectors comply when the bill was enacted in 2010. Shouldn’t consumers have the right to know, at point of purchase, the caloric content of menu items at chain establishments?
The recent “pink slime” uproar, in which shocked Americans discovered that ammoniated lean finely textured beef (LFTB) was secretly being added to ground beef, is now headed to court. A review of the history of LFTB reveals that the beef industry was hellbent on ensuring that Americans would never learn that it had been mixed into 70 percent of America’s ground beef supply. The “pink slime” debacle is this year’s “poster child” for thwarting transparency.
The consumer’s right to know is even being thwarted on America’s farms. In states where shocking farm food safety practices and animal abuses have been revealed (often through hidden camera investigations), industry ensures that ag-gag laws are proposed. In other words, once shocking abuses are revealed on a factory farm, state legislators are urged to criminalize undercover investigations on farms. Talk about obstructing democracy!
Something is desperately wrong, when Big Food and Big Ag get to call the shots on what the consumer does and doesn’t know about the food we eat. Ironically, the food industry preaches the mantra of “personal responsibility,” yet contradicts itself by thwarting the consumer’s right to basic information. How can anyone make informed decisions about food choices when industry works so hard to hide so much?
If it were up to Big Food and Big Ag, Americans would know little about their food or how it’s produced – except for the happy, coercive marketing messages they promote 24/7, to entice you into purchasing more of their products.
The right to know exactly what’s in your food and how it’s being produced should be a fundamental right in any democracy. That it’s not, and that Americans have to advocate for food system transparency, is testimony to the dangerous political power of the industrialized food industry.