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As consumer tastes evolve, so should FDA standards of identity

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 Janet E. Collins is head of regulatory, government and industry affairs at Motif FoodWorks

People increasingly are concerned about how animal-derived products impact their health, the environment or animal welfare. As a result, more than half of Americans are choosing to eat plant-based alternatives at least some of the time. This trend is expected only to increase out of both preference and necessity. By 2050, global protein demand is expected to increase 80% over today’s levels, and traditional advancements will not support such demand. To this end, we can expect the food we eat will change in the way it’s made, or in the ingredients used. 

To meet consumers’ growing appetite for animal-free options, new startups and legacy food makers alike are working hard to close the gap on things like taste, texture, how it cooks and nutrition. They know it’s imperative to offer consumers great food experiences, but creating plant-based versions of dairy, eggs and meat is no easy task. There is incredible complexity to making plant-based products that mimic or match their animal counterparts, and there is no doubt that to achieve new breakthroughs and improve the options at scale, the industry will require significant technological and scientific innovation. 

Janet E. Collins

 

The Food and Drug Administration must strongly consider this ongoing innovation and food science as it moves to modernize current food standards of identity, an effort kicked off during a public meeting held in September. FDA’s standards of identity have not traditionally kept pace with consumers’ own evolving expectations about the food supply and products they are purchasing. In this crucial moment where FDA aims to promote innovation of healthier foods, it’s essential that the agency consider these necessary technologies and changing consumer mindsets as it sets important guidance and regulations about plant-based alternatives — including what we call them. 

The meeting and coincidental call for comments come at a time when regulators find themselves under mounting pressure to make decisions about the naming and labeling of food in this new category. Currently, at least 23 states in the U.S. have introduced legislative language to prohibit manufacturers from using words like “milk” or “meat” to describe plant-based alternatives and to meaningfully describe what is inside a food package. 

Labeling is an essential part of FDA’s regulation of standards of identity. In 1938, Congress passed the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act intended to prohibit food manufacturers from adulterating or mislabeling their products. Misleading labels are prohibited by U.S. law, and for good reason. Nevertheless, the recent trend is intended to deny food manufacturers the opportunity to use terms associated with FDA- or USDA-regulated products for which standards of identity already exist. 

It’s important to remember that the intent of standards of identity is to prohibit economic adulteration and mislabeling of food by providing consumers with “assurance that they will get what they may reasonably expect to receive.” Removing words from labels doesn’t make it easier for consumers to make informed choices. As the number of options and alternatives grow, it limits choice. 

Qualified terms that specify meaningful differences among foods provide consumers product information needed to make purchase decisions in an environment that includes many choices. In practice, this method — which is supported by the Good Food Institute — looks like adding a qualifier such as “veggie” in front of the term “burger” or “oat” in front of the term “milk” on a package. Such qualifiers alert consumers as to what is in the package, not confuse them. 

Some states are beginning to rethink the laws that ban plant-based foods from using meat-based terms. This month Mississippi proposed revision of existing regulation that currently prohibits such labeling. 

Labeling in this manner is a logical extension of standards of identity representing animal-based products for which alternative products are marketed. Further, this labeling approach supports FDA’s goal of modernizing standards of identity and spurring innovation at food companies. A recent Food Marketing Institute report included a study reporting that for consumers, transparency may become a key non-price purchase trigger. Nine in 10 consumers rate ingredient transparency as important or very important for companies to address. With the food label as consumers’ first and principal source of information about their food, it’s one we need to get right. 

That FDA is making efforts to modernize the regulation of foods for which standards of identity exist deserves applause and attention. With updated standards of identity that expand the information brands can offer consumers about what is inside a package — not limit it —  consumers can make better informed decisions when scanning the increasingly crowded aisle of plant-based options.



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Vegans Are Sharing the Most Pathetic Desserts They’ve Ever Been Served at Restaurants

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Right now on Twitter, Oreo is running a promoted tweet with a short video encouraging everyone to leave one specific brand of sandwich cookie for Santa this year. It’s just as cringe as it sounds, and the only reason we’re not dragging Oreo all the way to the North Pole and back for the line “slide my sleigh into your DMs” is because it’s the holidays.

Anyway, while Santa’s being demanding AF about his cookie selection, a vegan woman just wished she’d gotten any cookie—or any kind of real dessert, period—when she celebrated her birthday at a Melting Pot restaurant.

“I went out for my birthday and I’m vegan so they gave me a single slice of banana instead of cake,” the woman, who calls herself Yazmin on Twitter, posted, attaching a photo of that sad fruit piece, topped with an equally sad candle. (Obviously they couldn’t give her the entire banana, not when they’re going for $120,000 each.)

Someone surrounded this depressing still life with the words “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate syrup, and the way the last three letters in “Birthday” sat on each other’s shoulders just made the entire thing even more disheartening.

Her tweet collected almost 200 responses, and a significant number of them were from other vegans who had been served equally ridiculous attempts at “dessert” at restaurants. “One time i went out for my bday and they gave me a cup of ice with a cherry on top,” someone else responded. Another added that she’d just been given an entire cup of whipped cream—which she couldn’t eat, because it was a dairy product.

So many food crimes disguised as desserts were reported: a half-peeled orange with a candle on top. A fruit salad that only included two grapes and a strawberry. Cocoa mixed with sugar water. “I got a single strawberry, and I’m not even vegan,” another woman chimed in.

How is it, in 2019, the Year of Our Lizzo and Savior, that restaurants don’t have some kind of go-to vegan dessert on hand to pass out to guests who are celebrating something, whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary, or just the fact that they officially gave their last fuck earlier in the afternoon. (And if you’re thinking of treating vegans the same way you’d treat Santa, Oreo says that although its products are vegetarian-friendly, the cookies might have come into cross-contact with milk, so it doesn’t consider them to be officially vegan.)

But a vegan artist named Asher might have the right idea. “Went to Olive Garden on my birthday and they just gave me more breadsticks,” he tweeted.

Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s go with that.





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EASY VEGAN Mediterranean Lunch Bowls by @glowingly.well . Tag a friend in the co…

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EASY VEGAN Mediterranean Lunch Bowls😍🌱 by @glowingly.well
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Tag a friend in the comments who would totally love this recipe😍
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Follow for more vegan recipes🌱
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@healthyvegancuisine
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📚FREE DESSERT RECIPE E-BOOK link in bio
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#healthyfoodshares #feelgoodfoodie #feelgoodfoods #feelgoodfood #foodgoals #healthyfamilymeals #foodiefeature #healthyfoodshares #plantbaseddiets #veganzone

 



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My Favorite 2019 Food-Focused Charities

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This post originally appeared on December 7, 2019, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.


Though I’m not religious, I admire the principle of tithing — taking a portion (a tenth!) of your take-home income and giving it to the community. Conveniently, in the church that often means giving the money to … the church. But there are many faiths that encourage taking that tithe and giving it to worthy charities. I have a personal percentage I’ve tried to hit since my teenage waitressing days but I often forget about it until the very end of the year.

Now is a good time to take stock in charitable donations, whether that’s time or money, for 2019. And since last week’s newsletter was focused on my favorite food-related gifts to buy for the holidays, recommending some food-related charitable foundations could be a good counter-balance.

My go-to food charities include The Food Bank For New York City, Hot Bread Kitchen, La Cocina, Restaurant Workers Community Foundation, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers. I would love to learn about yours. If you want to send me your favorites to amanda@eater.com, I’ll make sure to list them in this space in the coming weeks.



ABC Pony
Rey Lopez


We talk about the phenomenon of holiday-themed bars and interview the founder of Miracle, who licenses out his pop-up concept to dozens of bars around America. Then we get into the biggest stories of the week.




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