Blog | Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Institute of Medicine food rating system is another futile attempt to promote healthy eating

The Institute of Medicine has just released its recommendation that all foods be rated with an "energy star" system: three stars = good, zero stars = bad.

The Wall Street Journal said: "The Energy Star system is a model because it's simple and easy to use, and also because it's gained traction with industry, which now develops products with the rating in mind, committee members said."

Except that this rating system hasn't gained traction with industry: "But the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute announced their own front-of-the-pack system, called Facts Up Front, in January. It gives information on calories, saturated fat, sodium and added sugars but doesn't rate foods according to those components.

"In a statement today, the GMA said it has 'concerns about the untested, interpretive approach suggested by the IOM committee' and that 'consumers have said repeatedly that they want to make their own judgments, rather than have government tell them what they should and should not eat.' The FMI said in an emailed statement that it believes the Facts Up Front program 'utilizes the guiding principles recommended by IOM.'"

This is a smackdown, ladies and gentlemen.

If this is what the wellness ivory towers are coming up with for America, imagine what other brilliant initiatives we can brace ourselves for as millions of dollars are shifted from grandma's pacemaker to expensive wellness campaigns such as this one.

Mmm...cherry pie by jeffreyw via Flickr and a Creative Commons licenseBut in small-town America where the corporate suits have herded, overregulated, and often micromanaged America's workers, ordering the "0 energy star" food stuffs might be exactly the point: "Hey Mildred, can I have one of those '0-star' cherry pies for my breakfast? And while you're at it, grab a pack of Marlboro Lights, will ya?"

Once again, Joe Worker fails to appreciate that the gurus at the institute and food industry are only trying to save him from himself.

When will our regulators get this? Studies have already suggested the futility of these attempts.

But I guess to a carpenter, everything looks like a nail.

This post by Westby Fisher, MD, appeared at Get Better Health, a network of popular health bloggers brought together by Val Jones, MD. Better Health's mission is to support and promote health care professional bloggers, provide insightful and trustworthy health commentary, and help to inform health policy makers about the provider point of view on health care reform, science, research and patient care.