ABC News on Whole Grain Labeling
Tonight on World News with Diane Sawyer, Consumer Correspondent Elisabeth Leamy is scheduled to air a segment about whole grain packaging claims. The story was prompted by a letter that CSPI (The Center for Science in the Public Interest) recently sent to FDA, calling for foods making whole grain claims to indicate 1) the amount of whole grains in grams and 2) the percentage of grains that are whole.
ABC News asked the Whole Grains Council to participate in the story, and we spent time at an ABC affiliate this morning answering their questions. We thought our bl appreciate an overview of the points that we made, since only a small part of the interview will be aired. (We talked to Ms. Leamy for 15 minutes, but the final clip - including our views, CSPI's, and any other information - may be only about 90 seconds.)
We said that we share CSPI's concerns about confusion, which is why we created the Whole Grain Stamp. Over the past 7 years, it has reduced confusion in whole grain labeling and has been the cornerstone of one of the most successful public health and food campaigns of our time.
Consumption of whole grains rose 20% in the three years following introduction of the Stamp. Other foods recommended in the Dietary Guidelines did not show the same success, because it's important to augment Rules -- with Tools like the Whole Grain Stamp. A recent survey also showed that 36% of consumers buy whole grains because they enjoy the taste - showing how mainstream whole grains have become.
We explained why 8g is the minimum for the Whole Grain Stamp, and why this is a responsible minimum in line with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. We also pointed out that 2/3 of products using the Stamp contain at least twice this amount of whole grain, and many contain much more than that. Most companies are going far beyond the minimum, in adding whole grain to their products.
ABC News asked about the example, cited by CSPI, of a pasta containing the minimum 8g of whole grain in a 56g serving -- only 1/7 of the grain would be whole grain. We said this is not at all typical; 309 pastas have been approved to use the Whole Grain Stamp, and the average whole grain content of these pastas is 46g out of 56g.
The interview returned to the question of CSPI's ideas for better whole grain labeling -- specifically, indicating
-- the amount of whole grains in grams and
-- the percentage of grains that are whole
We pointed out that the Whole Grain Stamp already quantifies the grams, and that, when we met with FDA in March 2006, we asked about using percentage-of-grains. At that time we were told by FDA that all percentages on packaging must relate to percent of the total weight of all ingredients, not percent of grains. ("100% whole grain" is their only exception.)
To provide overall context, we explained that the Whole Grains Council does much more beyond the Whole Grain Stamp program, citing as examples the education of consumers and health professionals, and our upcoming nationwide Whole Grain Sampling Day on April 4.
We closed the interview by reiterating that Oldways and the Whole Grains Council are on the same side as CSPI, in working for better consumer understanding of the benefits of whole grains, and clearer labeling of them. And that if / when FDA makes any changes in their guidance on whole grain labeling, the Whole Grain Stamp will evolve to maximize its positive impact on helping move consumers toward healthier eating.
ABC World News with Diane Sawyer airs at 6:30 pm (ET); check your listings for local time if you'd like to watch.
Although it's always hard to predict the slant that a news story will take once it's edited, we were happy for the opportunity to explain the solid scientific basis for the Whole Grain Stamp, and for the chance to point out that the Stamp is not part of the problem of consumer confusion, but instead has been -- and will continue to be -- a big part of the SOLUTION. (Cynthia)