ARC Health & Wellness Community

The Association of Retail and Consumer Professionals


In recent weeks there has been a lot of chatter, debate, stories, and research shared on everything from non-sugar sweeteners to arsenic, MSG, and the proposed definition of “healthy” that has caused consumer (and industry) confusion and concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a new guideline on non-sugar sweeteners (NSS), and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) finalized the limit on arsenic in apple juice. We are waiting to hear the final ruling on the FDA’s proposed definition of the “Healthy” claim on food packages, and we know there will be no shortage of additional articles and research about other foods, ingredients and additives.

These types of statements, guidelines, and rules – while meant to help improve diet quality and reduce chronic disease – often cause concern or confusion for consumers and leave retail dietitians (and the industry as a whole) to answer tough questions. It’s important to be prepared for these conversations and have access to the information and resources you need to respond appropriately. 

Before you engage in any conversation, whether internal or with consumers, it is important to explore what every statement actually means – to you as a nutrition professional, to your retailer, to food manufacturers, and to consumers. It is equally important to not overreact to a single news story or piece of research. Instead, take the opportunity to explore the topic, gather information and have a plan for educating key stakeholders at your organization and shoppers, whether in store or online, based on specific needs and questions.

On the other side of these new guidelines and recommendations is consumer behavior. Shoppers may be interested in knowing and understanding the recommendations, but their actions may not coincide with guidelines for a multitude of reasons. The bottom line is that most of these new guidelines and statements will not change much about a dietitian’s guidance to consumers. Keeping sugar intake within reasonable limits, for example, is likely part of the advice already shared. Too many people take an all-or-nothing approach to new guidelines and sensationalized headlines, which retail dietitians know is not realistic. So, the dietitian’s role in these situations is to serve as a voice of reason in helping consumers to interpret the science and make the best choices they can as often as they can.

There is a lot to sort through with each new or updated guideline release, and it is only the beginning. As the WHO noted at the end of their NSS guideline, this “is part of a suite of existing and forthcoming guidelines on healthy diets that aim to establish lifelong healthy eating habits, improve dietary quality, and decrease the risk of NCDs worldwide.” The food debate will continue, and registered dietitians in the food and beverage industry have a significant opportunity to lead the conversation as industry leaders and with consumers.

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