Taco Bell Lawsuit Raises Questions To Which We Must Respond

Feb. 16, 2011
It is important for all of us to understand why our association has taken a cooperative role on nutrition labeling.
The recent lawsuit against Taco Bell, in which a consumer claims the chain misrepresents the ingredients in its taco beef, demonstrates the need for responsible regulation of food content and nutrition labeling.The public argument that has risen between the plaintiff and the company can easily cause us to lose sight of the need to understand why we as an industry need to communicate ingredients and nutritional content. We should not allow this to happen.Over the years, processed foods have become a bigger part of our diets. Consumers in general have not paid attention to nutrition content.But as rising obesity has gained media attention, the public has become alarmed and is paying closer attention to the content of food being sold.Which is where we are today.Nutrition labeling and calorie disclosure are very cumbersome for the food industry.Industry organizations, such as the National Automatic Merchandising Association, are trying to work with the government to see that regulations are manageable. The association has taken a cooperative approach.Some industry members believe that industry organizations are taking this approach in order to minimize the regulations and to appease critics. There is some truth to these assumptions, but they do not explain the industrys position accurately.It is important for all of us to understand why our association has taken a cooperative role on nutrition labeling.The nation is facing an obesity epidemic. Rising obesity, heart disease and diabetes threaten the health not only of consumers, but future workers that businesses ours and our customers rely on.The causes of obesity are not fully understood, but one cause is the lack of nutritional education. Youngsters do not learn nutrition from their parents any more, and parents know less about nutrition than their own parents.Food purveyors, including refreshment service operators, have the means to provide ingredient information and nutrition content information to customers. Providing this information is part of helping educate consumers.This is a cause that our industry, as part of the food industry, must embrace.