Top Ten Food Fights Facing the Obama Administration and Congress

By publishing Food Scores, EWG has made it easier for consumers to make healthier, greener and cleaner choices in the grocery store.

Consumers aren’t the only ones facing tough choices when it comes to food.

Congress and the Obama administration will need to make decisions that could set the table for decades of better eating – or more leftovers.

Here are ten food fights that should whet your appetite for the next session of Congress and the final years of the Obama administration:

  • GMO labeling – Three states have passed GMO labeling laws and voters in Colorado and Oregon voters will soon decide whether to give consumers the right to know what’s in their food – a right shared by consumers in 64 countries. But some food and biotechnology companies will ask Congress to block these states laws and to make it harder for the federal Food and Drug Administration to require mandatory labeling. Congress should reject efforts to preempt state labeling laws, and President Obama should make good on his 2007 pledge to require mandatory GMO labeling.
  • Healthy school meals – New federal rules that make it harder to sell junk food to students are being challenged by pizza and French fry makers and their cronies in Congress. Congress should strengthen, not weaken, school nutrition standards. President Obama should veto any legislation that rolls back the gains made by the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
  • Excessive antibiotics – Overuse of antibiotics in the feed of farm animals has contributed to the evolution of antimicrobial-resistant “superbugs.” The FDA’s efforts to persuade livestock producers to reduce antibiotic use voluntarily have failed. President Obama should act swiftly to preserve the effectiveness of these vital life-saving drugs. Congress should pass legislation banning the indiscriminant   use of antibiotics in animal feed.  
  • Fighting Hunger – While some members of Congress want to increase the number of children eligible for school breakfast, other legislators want to make even more cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  Congress should provide the funding needed to make sure no child goes hungry, and President Obama should veto any legislation that fails to meet this goal.
  • Unregulated food additives – Thousands of food chemicals have never been scrutinized by the FDA, including some chemicals linked to serious health problems. The agency should take steps to investigate more food additives. Congress should develop legislation to force FDA to act more swiftly to research food chemicals that have been subject only to industry review.  
  • Nutrition Facts panel – This year, FDA plans to issue an updated version of the Nutrition Facts panel required on all food labels.  The agency must decide whether to make calories more prominent, highlight the presence of added sugar and use a format that helps consumers avoid too much sugar, fat and sodium. President Obama should stand with consumers and demand a Nutrition Facts panel that helps Americans build healthier diets.
  • Reward farm stewardship – The 2014 federal farm bill cut funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that reward farmers who protect air and water.  Congress may decide to make further cuts in environmental protection programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.  Congress should reject such cuts, and President Obama should veto legislation that cuts programs that reward farm stewardship.
  • Reform farm subsidies –The 2014 farm bill failed to rein in unlimited subsidies to the largest, most successful farm businesses.  Now, some legislators are looking for ways to reform subsidy programs by subjecting potential recipients to means testing, payment limits and greater transparency. Congress should support reasonable reforms that level the playing field for family farmers.
  • Deceptive food claims – Misleading food claims like “natural” confuse consumers and rob market share from truly sustainable foods like those that have been organically produced. It’s time for President Obama to crack down on bogus “green” claims so that consumers get what they’re paying for.
  • Reform food marketing subsidies – Food companies that market junk food can to deduct the cost of advertising from their taxes – even junk food advertising aimed at kids. Congress should reform these tax subsidies and help shift advertising to food with less sodium, sugar and fat.
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