On February 10th and 11th, the Washington DC section of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) hosted the 9th Annual Food Policy Impact conference. This yearly meeting provides the latest intelligence around U.S. food laws, regulations, and policy developments and featured a variety of speakers from government, health professional groups and inside-the-beltway policy experts.
Presenting agencies included the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Office for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
Here are some of the highlights:
CBD remains a question mark for researchers and regulators. FDA remains concerned with the lack of safety data around chronic CBD consumption, and limited research has been conducted to date. Only hemp products with very low amounts of CBD are generally recognized as safe (GRAS), and the FDA issued 22 warning letters in 2019 largely targeting CBD products that make unsubstantiated disease-reduction claims. Understanding the state of the science behind CBD and the current regulatory framework is critical for companies considering the cannabis space.
Consumers will continue to see both “GMO” and “bioengineered” (BE) on food labels. FSIS will permit the use of “non-GMO” claims, as the term has been shown to resonate with consumers. However, its use conflicts with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s 2018 ruling to only use the term BE and FDA’s 2019 guidance discouraging the use of “non-GMO” claims on labels.
The first clinical study testing the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) dietary pattern yielded null results. A recent ARS-funded, two-month clinical trial examined how following a diet recommended by the 2015-2020 DGA affects health outcomes. No significant differences were found except for a slight improvement in systolic blood pressure and calorie absorption on the DGA diet. Publication details for this study were not mentioned.
A panel discussion found common ground on fresh and processed red meat recommendations. To reduce colorectal cancer risk, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating 12-18 ounces of fresh and processed red meat per week, which is within the range recommended in the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as well as the amount mentioned by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association during the discussion. Panelists from both organizations agreed that red meat has a place in a balanced, daily diet and that the value of replacing red meat with meat alternatives (e.g., the Impossible Burger) is unclear.
Inconsistent narratives around processed foods may lead to industry divide. While some industry presenters discussed driving consumers towards a “whole food plant-based” diet, others defended the role of processing in developing healthful foods. One audience member called for the industry to unite and promote consistency and accuracy in food marketing claims, especially around “processing” and terms like “ultra-processed.”