[PHNUTR-L] Companies Argue Over Whole Grain Standards
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD
fivestar at nutritionucanlivewith.com
Thu Jun 16 19:31:41 PDT 2005
Colleagues, the following is FYI and does not necessarily reflect my own
opinion. I have no further knowledge of the topic.
Jun 16, 2005
Companies Argue Over Whole Grain Standards
June 16, 2005, 8:45 PM EDT
MINNEAPOLIS -- Anyone who has ever chosen between toast and cereal for
breakfast can relate to a fight between food companies over which one
counts as an "excellent" source of whole grains. The answer is worth
billions of dollars to cereal-makers such as General Mills Inc. and
bread and pasta makers such as Sara Lee Corp., Campbell Soup Co., and
ConAgra Foods Inc.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is weighing adopting General
Mills' proposed standard that foods containing at least 16 grams of
whole grains per serving are "an excellent source of whole grain" while
8 to 15 grams per serving is a "a good source of whole grain."
Bread and pasta makers argue that the definitions pushed by General
Mills unfairly favor cereals and crackers over foods like bread and
pasta whose water content makes them unlikely to meet what even General
Mills says are high standards.
"The petition stacks the deck toward one food group," said Bill
Nictakis, president of the Sara Lee Bakery Group's U.S fresh bread
business in St. Louis. "If we set the bar too high, we will have less
ability to tell the public about whole grains."
General Mills converted all of its cereals to whole grains last year,
and spent millions promoting the switch.
Although the recently revised U.S. dietary guidelines and food pyramid
recommend increased consumption of whole grains, industry executives say
most consumers are unaware of whole grains and their significant health
benefits. That's why some are calling for the FDA to eliminate consumer
confusion by establishing labeling standards.
"It's probably one of the most crucial issues facing whole grains," said
Len Marquart, an assistant professor of food science and nutrition at
the University of Minnesota. "Until we can provide (whole-grain foods)
with seals, logos, insignias, we can't educate, we can't market. We
can't sell whole grains unless we can identify what whole grains
(people) are consuming."
The 16-gram definition proposed by General Mills is based on the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's definition of a whole-grain serving, said
Kathy Wiemer, senior manager of the company's Bell Institute of Health
and Nutrition. General Mills is already using the "excellent" and "good"
descriptions on its cereals.
Few dispute the need for standards. But some nutrition experts and food
companies, especially bread manufacturers, say the 16 grams standard is
much too high and will prevent many whole grain foods from carrying the
"excellent source" label.
More water in bread means less room for whole grains. Thirty grams of
cereal contains 3 percent or 4 percent moisture, while 30 grams of bread
has 37 percent moisture.
Cereal and bread are two of the most frequently purchased items in
American grocery stores, and competition between them is intense.
"It is important for everyone to understand what this issue is really
all about," Stan Osman, vice president of bread marketing for Interstate
Bakeries Corp. of Kansas City, said in a written statement. "If the
intention of the new U.S. dietary guidelines is to get more whole-grain
nutrition into the diets of consumers, the proposal by General Mills
could have the opposite effect, as research has shown that most
whole-grain servings are contributed by bread."
Gene Grabowski, a former vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers of
America, one of the industry's largest lobbying groups, says such label
jockeying is common in the food industry.
"In a business where (profit) margins are so modest, you have to look
for any marketing advantage you can," said Grabowski, an executive with
Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington consulting firm what works
closely with food companies. "Getting a type of government approval is
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD < fivestar at nutritionucanlivewith.com >
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