The Zagat review might read: With an alarming rise in “food integrity” from “profit-hungry corporations” targeting consumers with “deceptive packaging practices,” Citizens for Health, a consumer advocacy group, is "fighting back" online.
Unfortunately, there is no Zagat-style review of labels on food products on US shelves, only user reviews of the food found on menus in restaurants, so a new website — FoodIdentityTheft.com — is looking to alert consumers to potentially (or actual) mislabeling of food, and rally them to lobby the government to take action.
According to the press release issued by the site's owner, Citizens for Health, “Some food companies are trying to steal consumer’s rights to know what’s in the foods they eat. FoodIdentityTheft.com provides facts to consumers about food ingredients and package labels so they can make informed decisions about the food they purchase.” It's also a consumer advocacy site, urging visitors to take action on the issues it raises.
A non-profit consumer watchdog since 1993, Citizens for Health is funded by "concerned consumers, non-profit partners, food growers, and businesses," the non-profit says its mandate is to disseminate the "latest consumer news, action alerts, and ways to demand access to healthy food, non-toxic products, and truthful, non-misleading health information."
"Many consumers believe that the U.S. government will protect us from false advertising or stop corporations from making unproven claims about their products," said FoodIdentityTheft.com Senior Editor, Linda Bonvie. "But the truth is, corporations have a huge influence in Washington. We as consumers have to protect ourselves, stay informed, and tell our legislators and government agencies that we won't accept being lied to."
Hot topics at launch on FoodIdentityTheft.com includes misleading labeling on food, beverage and health products, as well the legal stand-off between sugar growers and corn refiners over high fructose corn syrup marketing.
Earlier this month the high-stakes battle between a coalition of sugar farmers' cooperatives and other producers, including C&H Sugar Company, and producers of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) began in a Los Angeles courtroom.
"This suit is about false advertising, pure and simple," stated Inder Mathur, President and CEO of Western Sugar Cooperative. "If consumers are concerned about your product, then you should improve it or explain its benefits, not try to deceive people about its name or distort scientific facts."
"Every day we see stories about food makers trying to pull a fast one on consumers," said Jim Turner, Chairman of Citizens for Health.
The site's Culprits section looks at hot topics, including the HFCS debate, plus "Blueberry Deception" (pointing fingers at breakfast foods by Kellogg's, General Mills, Betty Crocker and Smucker's) and "Tomato Sauce Scam."
It's not all Bad Guys; the site applauds brands such as Whole Foods Markets, Starbucks, Snapple, Jason’s Deli, all of which have banned/removed all products that contain HFCS. Also, Quaker Oats has committed to eliminate it from its Chewy Granola Bars, while Pepsi has removed it from all Gatorade products. The nation’s largest natural food cooperative, PPC Markets, will not sell any products containing High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Add FoodIdentityTheft.com to the list of blogs and websites that retailers, consumers and brands alike will be checking.