On June 8, 2020, Moms Across America and supporters sent 6,434 requests to the top 50 food producers to do a better job than the FDA. On May 18, the USDA announced that they would be allowing GMO food producers to self-determine if their products needed regulation. The USDA also decided they would not be regulating gene editing at all. Then, on May 22, the FDA announced that during the COVID 19 shutdown food producers could, reportedly because of supply chain difficulties, switch out ingredients and not update their labels. The FDA stated that this policy would pertain to ingredients that are less than 2% of the total food product weight but exclude allergens. Similar ingredients such as sunflower oil and canola oil would be acceptable items to be switched.
Watch this eye-opening discussion with dedicated food insider Colleen Kavanagh of Zego's Foods, an allergy friendly food company who is passionate about a safe food supply.
In this discussion we discuss the FDA Failures and What You Can Do.
In this campaign, Moms Across America and consumers, including doctors, food producers, scientists, farmers and health advocates objected to the FDA changes. They wrote to the top 50 food producers asking them to make a statement defining their commitment regarding these changes. They also asked the food producers to be a part of the solution, and to remedy the lack of access to healthy organic food by asking suppliers of commodity crops to switch 1% of their cropland to organically grown mixed vegetables. In addition, the petitioners asked the food producers to donate 1% to community organizations to support local food security and the transition to regenerative organic agriculture.
Five of the world’s largest food producers responded. Smithfield, Producers Dairy, PepsiCo, Conagra and Hershey Company. It is significant that these companies acknowledged the request of Moms Across America and our supporters. The following are excerpts from their answers. Although they did not respond to all of our requests, they did respond to the most urgent situation of switching out ingredients and not updating the labels. Their full responses can be found here.
The second largest food producer in the world, PepsiCo Company, replied “PepsiCo is taking any supply issues/ingredient swapping very seriously and will only consider minor changes if they are absolutely necessary, will not impact the label, and will not include unlabeled allergens.” We sincerely appreciate that they are taking this matter seriously. We remind all food producers, however, that minor changes can have a life-threatening impact on people with unusual food allergies. As pointed out by the owner of Zego’s, a food company that is urging food producers and consumers to comment to the FDA to halt this policy change, and focuses on allergy free foods, there are over 170 known allergens, not just 8 like the FDA acknowledges. And there could be more. According to the Food Allergy and Research website any food can trigger an allergic reaction; everyone is different.
Smithfield, producers of pork products and food processing company, based in Smithfield, Virginia in the United States, and a wholly owned subsidiary of WH Group of China, gave us an extensive explanation of their practices and we appreciate their statement, however, they continue to ignore evidence of harm that befalls animals that eat GMO grains and their related toxic chemicals. Their response included:
Meat and poultry livestock are not genetically modified organisms (GMOs). However, most livestock feed grains (including corn and soybeans) in the U.S. use GMO technologies. All GMO crops have been evaluated by a host of regulatory agencies, including the FDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as many scientific organizations, and have been found to be safe for people and animals to eat. There is no evidence that animals are affected by eating grain from plants with genetically modified characteristics. None of our products are labeled as ‘Non-GMO’. At Smithfield, we monitor the dialogue about GMOs and stay current with the latest scientific research.
Producers Dairy of Dean Foods Tweeted with a positive commitment:
We can't speak for everyone in the industry, but we can speak for ourselves and we can assure you that we haven't changed any of our practices before, during, or after COVID-19. As a company, our goal is to provide you with fresh and local products. The only way we can do that is not only by following all of the regulations in place but holding ourselves to a higher standard that allows us to #NourishLivesOneAtATime. Hope this helps!
Conagra made it brief, “Zen, please know that we are aware of FDA’s recent guidance providing temporary flexibility in food labeling requirements. At this point, we are working hard to avoid having to make material changes to any of our products based on supply chain disruptions. We hope this helps!”
Hershey Company gave us an extensive letter sharing about their charitable food initiatives. They also stated: “Thank you for reaching out to the Hershey Company. We are aware of the FDA temporary guidance on food labeling. To date, we have not encountered any COVID-19 related impacts that would affect current product labels.”
They continued, “Food safety and consumer trust are critically important to The Hershey Company. We’re a company that believes in being open and transparent so we can help people achieve balance and well-being while enjoying the snacks they love.”
Although there is much progress to be made within our food supply, this result is a positive step in the right direction. Thousands of emails, hundreds of tweets and phone calls were made asking food producers to step up and do a better job than the FDA. Consumers are more and more frequently requiring more from food companies. Citizens are demonstrating ownership of our food system and their own health.
Clearly, changing the habits of the oldest and largest food companies isn't going to happen overnight. But it will happen. One by one companies will hear us, respond to us, and begin to make changes. And we won't stop until they do.
Ask the remaining food producers to respond! Take action here.
Moms Across America continues to request and welcome responses to [email protected] from food producers regarding whether or not they will allow substitutions of ingredients without updating labels.
We also encourage food producers and consumers to comment to the FDA directly and ask them to retract this dangerous policy.