Industry News | September 10, 2009

USDA Head Warns Chains to be Honest

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Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urged produce and foodservice leaders to focus on improving Americans’ nutrition and enhancing the safety of the country’s food supply today during his keynote address at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Public Policy Conference in the nation’s capital.

According to Vilsack, one of the main goals of the USDA and President Obama’s expansive vision for the organization is to improve consumption of fruits and vegetables among children.

Specifically, Vilsack encouraged franchised chains to deliver honest and accurate nutritional and ingredient information to consumers to help fight the obesity epidemic and improve overall nutrition for Americans.

“We have to make better choices as individuals and we have to be helped to make those choices,” Vilsack told QSR magazine.

He went on to deter chains within the industry from presenting nutritional information that is not entirely accurate or paints menu items as more healthy than they actually are.

In addition, the USDA aims to strengthen the consumers’ understanding of where their food comes from—a cause recently triumphed by Michelle Obama during the development of the new White House Garden.

Vilsack acknowledged the growing consumer desire to better understand the source of restaurant ingredients and said he hopes chains are “straight, honest, and accurate” in presenting that information.

But the secretary was also quick to point out that nutritional changes are not solely the responsibility of chains and foodservice institutions like schools.

The administration is also looking to target its efforts at expectant mothers and children, recently developing public service announcements and materials for the nutritional program WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) within the USDA.

“Thirty-five percent of our kids are overweight or at risk of being overweight,” Vilsack told QSR. “We have to get serious about this.”

By Blair Chancey


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