Earlier this week, Daniel Lubetzky, the founder and CEO of KIND, known for its popular snack bars and products, announced that he’s ready to fight food industry missteps, and he’ll be putting up $25 million of his own dollars to do it.
In 2015, KIND was targeted by the FDA over use of the word “healthy” on its nut-based snack bars, which the agency said didn’t qualify to use the term because of a dated definition that prevented “healthy” from being used on any high-fat foods, including avocados and coconut oil.
While research supported KIND’s claims that nuts are indeed deserving of the H word, it also revealed something else to Lubetzky: “that his industry had too much power in how food policy is decided,” the Washington Post reports.
Lubetzky is now personally funding Feed the Truth, a group he created aimed at targeting food policy and lifting the veil on industry-funded “influencers” and other suspect voices. While contributing $5 million up front and $20 million more pledged over the next decade, Lubetzky says he won’t be involved in choosing the group’s board or involved in its efforts.
“I don’t want to talk to them. I don’t want to know who they are. I’m not going to forward them articles,” Lubetzky told the Post. “The announcement will be done by us. After that, we’re cutting the cord — the decisions will be made by board members I’ve never met.”
Michael Jacobson, the president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, will assist in choosing the board members, along with NYU nutrition professor Marion Nestle, and former director of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!”, Deborah Eschmeyer.
The group will be tasked with exposing favors in the industry, including questionable research and organizations, as well as revealing politicians with tight connections to the food industry. It may conduct investigations or pay for independent bodies to check industry-funded research, it may even support campaigns targeting politicians and consumers, notes the Post.
“Political contributions from food and beverage companies have more than doubled in the past 18 years,” explains the Post, “and the industry spends billions to fund complementary research, finance ‘shadow’ groups to advance its local agendas, and lobby regulators.”
Issues like the labeling situation KIND experienced are among those the group may tackle, as well as pushback from the processed food industry, like its stance against sodium reduction targets, and labeling (or reducing) added sugar.
“Feed the Truth is up against powerful adversaries,” notes the Post. Political action committees associated with food and beverage companies doubled contributions to candidates in the last cycle compared to 18 years ago. And close to 600 food companies or trade associations lobbied the USDA just last year.
“The battle,” Nestle told the Post, “begins with transparency and disclosure, but that’s only the first step.”
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