- The Biden administration unveiled a collection of nutrition, wellness, health and accessibility policies that seek to end hunger and increase dietary and physical health among Americans by 2030. The National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health is a mix of executive actions and legislative proposals released ahead of the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health, which is Wednesday.
- The multipronged approach to reduce the number of households with insufficient food to less than 1% and cut the number of food insecure households in half includes numerous policies that the administration says could improve food access and affordability, better integrate nutrition and health, empower consumers to make and have access to healthy choices, support physical activity for all, and enhance nutrition and food security research.
- This is the first big and official White House meeting to discuss food and nutrition issues in more than 50 years. Several proposals would change regulations around labeling and ingredients, which would impact all CPGs if adopted.
While food security, nutritional quality, clear labeling and access to healthy food is of central importance to the well-being of each individual, initiatives about food often get lost when it comes to setting policy. Biden is the first president since Richard Nixon to convene this type of gathering of leaders from government, science, consumer advocacy, the private sector and philanthropy to discuss the issues at hand.
There are many policy solutions in Biden’s proposal that are about access to healthy food, including increasing access to free school meals, making changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and working with government departments to improve physical access to grocery stores.
But there are also several that could directly impact CPG companies. These include creating a front-of-pack labeling system that can help consumers quickly see the nutritional standards of a product. This type of system, which has been implemented in other countries and has been proposed for years by consumer advocacy groups, goes beyond nutritional data information and could include traffic lights or stars to show consumers a product’s health quality. Studies have shown this kind of labeling is the most effective in communicating nutritional information.
A similar planned initiative would make nutritional information more available to consumers when they shop for groceries online. The strategy calls for a request for information to gather information on what is done now and where the challenges are.
The administration’s proposal is also targeting two ingredients that can be problematic: salt and sugar. It calls for taking another look at the voluntary salt reduction guidelines that were issued last year, and consider potentially instituting similar sugar reduction guidelines. While the revamped Nutrition Facts label places more attention on the amount of sugar in a product — especially added sugars — voluntary guidelines may further reduce how much sugar is added to products. The strategy suggests a future public meeting for stakeholders to discuss the issue.
A lot of the plans listed in the strategy, ranging from new labeling guidelines to increasing access to nutrition-related healthcare, are not quick fixes. Administration officials said on a background telephone call that the strategy does not have a timeline to complete these initiatives, but they want to work on them soon.
One that was specifically listed in the strategy could happen soon: ensuring the federal government’s definition of “healthy” matches with nutritional research and standards. The federal government has actively worked on this issue since 2016, collecting more than 1,100 comments on a Federal Register docket and holding a daylong public hearing in 2017 to hear from stakeholders. A notice published last week by the federal Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs indicated the regulatory review on this matter was finished.