Whole-y Wars

March 1, 2006
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Whole-y Wars
By Jennifer Zegler
The FDA’s recent recommendations are causing confusion and creating comments about whole grain claims.
Recent dietary guidelines have incited whole grain pandemonium, which is causing manufacturers to rush to incorporate whole grains into their breads, baked goods and snacks in order to attract whole grain believers. As consumers flock to worship the whole-y spirit, the Food and Drug Administration has provided no direction for the faithful.
Since the revamped 2005 Dietary Guidelines decided that three out of the six recommended daily servings of grain-based foods should come from whole grains, bakeries and snack producers have been loading their product lines with reformulations packed with whole grains and touting their content on packages.
More than 300 whole grain products were introduced last year, according to Datamonitor Productscan Online in Naples, N.Y. That’s up about 20% from 2004. And it’s more than three times the number introduced in 1999.
This flurry of activity happened without guidance from the FDA as to what exactly constitutes whole grains and what makes up a whole grain product.
“To date, manufacturers have not had any guidance as to how to define or label their whole grain products — it’s basically been a free-for-all,” says Judi Adams, president of the Grain Foods Foundation.
Finally, in February, the FDA began to catch up and released drafted guidance regarding the definition of whole grains and the content claims that try to clarify the confusion. Both Adams and Lee Sanders, American Bakers Association senior vice president of government and public affairs, stress that the document doesn’t carry the weight of a ruling by the agency.
“These are non-binding recommendations, and the [baking] industry will stick by our earlier recommendations to our membership to continue to use factual statements, as well as ‘high’ and ‘excellent’ claims, where substantiated,” Sanders says.
A Holey Definition
Yet, the recommendations are causing controversy themselves. The ABA announced that it wants to review the definition within the FDA guidance because it conflicts with the current U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grains Inspection definition, Sanders notes. In a statement reacting to the recommendations, the association adds, “From our initial review of the document, ABA is disappointed that FDA did not substantively address classification of whole grain statements. There is no real helpful guidance for the industry as to how to encourage consumers to eat/consume more whole grain products consistent with the dietary guidelines.”
The draft lays out whole grain definitions for cereal grains, legumes, corn, barley, rolled oats, whole wheat and durum wheat. Under these definitions, legumes, such as soybeans and chickpeas and their derivatives, are not considered whole grain. The general U.S. processing of barley into pearls removes some of the bran layer, so it is not considered whole grain. Corn, rolled oats, and whole and durum wheat are considered whole grains as long as all of the bran, germ and endosperm remain intact after processing. Yet most consumers are unconcerned with the definition of whole grains and more focused on how to incorporate them into their diet. As a result, FDA asks that labels lead them in the right direction.
For instance, the agency suggests that the familiar stamps used by the Whole Grains Council, which label products as a “good,” “excellent” and “100% excellent” source of whole grains, are misbranding because they lack stated numerical content. Instead, the document recommends that manufacturers make factual statements such as “10 grams of whole grains” or “100% whole grain oatmeal.”
Although the stamps themselves lack gram information, on its Web site the council clarifies that the bright golden stamps, which appear on more than 600 products, are factually based. For instance, a product labeled ‘Good Source’ has 8 gm. of whole grains, half a serving according to Dietary Guidelines serving; ‘Excellent Source’ has 16 gm., which is a full serving; and ‘100% Excellent Source’ has its entire grain content as whole grains and is a full serving.
Still, Adams and Julie Miller Jones, a member of the Grain Foods Foundation’s scientific advisory board, agree that confusion remains.
“I don’t think the consumer has a clue if 2 gm. of whole grains are significant or not,” Adams says. “The descriptive terms of ‘made with,’ ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ are much more helpful.”
“Factual statements are only valuable in context,” Jones continues. “For example, ‘This product contains eight grams of whole grains — a minimum of 48 gm. is recommended per day.’”
Getting the Whole Story
The FDA’s document also includes guidelines for product and grain content labeling. All too often, consumers and the media use “multi-grain” and “whole grain” interchangeably. The FDA clearly states that “multi-grain” or “seven grain” products are not to be labeled as whole grain.
Rather, it recommends that bread, rolls and buns only be labeled whole grain if the dough is made from whole wheat flour, brominated whole wheat flour or a combination of these and no other type of flour. Bagels and pizzas can be labeled as whole grain when they are made entirely from whole grain flour. A product made with whole wheat flour only can be labeled “whole wheat.” The FDA also will allow scientific statements to appear on labels regarding whole grains’ role in reducing risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Items that mix whole grains with high sugar or fat content currently are not considered different when it comes to labels. As Jones explains, “Some caramel popcorn items are high in sugar, and corn chips are high in fat. I am not sure that these are the whole grains that will lead to a reduction in diabetes and coronary disease or other benefits attributed to whole grains for those who choose these as the main way to get whole grains into the diet.”
The FDA’s recommendations are only in the beginning stages, as the government bureau invites comments and hopes to issue a final statement before the end of the year. For now, the guidance — which has no legal binding — is causing some concern. Adams suggests that much more education is needed in all areas.
“I think the next step is a labeling program which tells [consumers] a relative amount of whole grains, such as ‘made with,’ ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ sources,” she says. “Then I think it is the responsibility of the government, industry, media and nutrition professionals to educate the consumer at every opportunity.”
Until the final FDA ruling is released, it seems that these recommendations may not have a lasting effect.
“Will it have any impact?” Adams says. “I don’t think so. It may cause more confusion for consumers. [The industry] welcomes the opportunity to comment, and thinks it will generate industry comments for the FDA to consider as it develops final policy later this year.”
Adding It Up
The Whole Grains Council is the maker of the golden stamps that appear on more than 600 products. Although the FDA issued the council a letter saying that the stamps are “misbranding” because they lack numerical gram content information, the council’s Web site clarifies the stamps’ meanings based on the 48 gm. recommended per day:
• Good Source: 8 gm. or half a dietary guidelines serving
• Excellent Source: 16 gm. or a full dietary serving
• 100%: Excellent Source: entirely made from whole grains and a full dietary serving
Cogswell Becomes First Female ASB Chairman
It only took 82 years, but it finally happened. Theresa Cogswell, vice president of research and development for Interstate Bakeries Corp., has become the first female chairman of the American Society of Baking.
Cogswell told the society’s conference, held in Chicago in early March, that she was honored by the selection. She added that the society raised the bar during its innovative 2006 program, and she would work diligently to put together a conference that matched this year’s in terms of quality.
Cogswell also serves as president of the Society of Bakery Women, a network where members can share personal and professional stories from their experiences in the industry.
Strengthening Strategies for DSD
As the battle for shelf space and store presence intensifies, sales execution at the local level is becoming increasingly important. Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery and Beverage Industry magazines have teamed up to host the DSD Strategies: Direct Store Delivery Distribution & Marketing Conference, an event designed to help companies make the most of in-store sales opportunities. The conference will be held May 3-4 at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla.
DSD Strategies addresses the unique distribution and marketing opportunities of direct store delivery, including the ability to make decisions regarding pricing, packaging, retail trade promotions and consumer promotions. Other topics include “how to’s” such as: organizing a sales force and distribution system; managing distribution channels; discovering and profiting from new channels; developing a strategic approach to distribution; sales management techniques; merchandising; shelf/space management; multi-brand management; introducing new products; RFID; retailer perspectives and needs; and manufacturer case studies.
Moderating the conference will be Stanley Makadok, president of Century Management Consultants Inc., Princeton, N.J., who specializes in strategic planning, marketing, distribution and direct-store delivery. Makadok has worked with consulting firm Coopers & Lybrand, Pepsi-Cola Co. and others.
Hal Kravitz, vice president of business development and chief revenue officer of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises, will be the keynote speaker.
Other speakers at DSD Strategies will include Mike Warehime, chairman of Snyder’s of Hanover; Brendan O’Malley, director of enterprise applications at Tasty Baking Co.; Kevin Krigline, vice president of supply chain optimization at Sara Lee Corp.’s food and beverage division; Dave Hampton, director of customer delivery systems at Frito-Lay Inc.; Gary Hallett, vice president of sales and marketing at Southeast-Atlantic Beverage Corp.; James J. Daniels, vice president, retail shelf merchandising, national retail sales at Anheuser-Busch Inc.; Brian Hodgson, vice president of marketing at Eleven Technology; Fred Katz, practitioner faculty at the Graduate School of Business department of marketing at Johns Hopkins University; Richard Kochersperger, associate professor of the food marketing department at the Haub School of Business at St. Joseph’s University; and Michael Zielinski, president and chief executive officer of Royal Buying Group.
For more information, call 1-847-405-4000, or visit dsdstrategies.com.

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