Frito-Lay has just announced a change in 50% of its snack food line to all natural ingredients by the end of 2011 – go here to read the full story.
This is welcome news and a big step in the right direction. Removing artificial ingredients and MSG is one of the best things Frito-Lay can do for the consumer. As a whole foods chef and health counselor, I am interested in any and all steps the food industry makes in providing healthful foods for consumers. There are a couple of glitches in this good news though: the word “natural” is associated with “healthy” and that is not necessarily the case, For example: sugar and vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, canola) may be considered “natural” ingredients/foods, but the prevalence of these ingredients in almost all processed foods is also contributing to an epidemic of diabetes and heart disease in America.
If the general public ate snack foods occasionally and in small quantities this might not be an issue. But, the way the bottom line works now, snack food companies make money by keeping their ingredient costs down, using unhealthy or less healthful options, and by marketing and designing products so that they are extremely appealing and will be eaten in large quantities. The conflict between what is in the interest of the consumers health and the industries bottom line has to be rectified in order for everyone to profit in the long run.
Change has to occur at many levels – no one wants to put an end to snacking or making money! But, until the food industry includes promoting the health and vitality of the nation as part of its mission, it is promoting supposedly healthy products and unhealthy eating habits, all the while making money at the expense of consumers health.
We need to develop strategies that create a win-win situation for everyone involved – educating consumers to take responsibility for their health and producing products that will truly support a healthy lifestyle.
So like I said, this is a good and important step, and let’s not pat ourselves on the back but keep moving, fast. A lot of peoples lives, and livelihoods, are on the line.