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The Food Industry and Nutrition GILBERT A. LEVEILLE Investigations of eating patterns and nutritional adequacy often seem to be based on the following two assumptions: (1) that food selection is and has been the major determinant of nutritional status and (2) that any change in eating behavior will negatively affect nutritional status. I would like to take issue with these assumptions and assert that the food industry has had a strong positive impact on the improvement of the food supply and, hence, on nutritional status. This influence provocatively suggests the only way to improve diets. If future changes in diet composition can be agreed on, they will be affected primarily by changing the food supply rather than food selection behavior. How can these changes best be im- plemented? A cooperative effort among academia, government, and the private sector is essential for dealing with present and future nutrition issues, and scientific consensus is critical to that effort. Because recommendations for action are difficult to implement unless there is scientific support, scientific consensus is He essential element for creating workable public policy that will rally the private sector to creatively change the food supply and thereby achieve the identified objectives. An example is illustrative. Nutrition research and subsequent cooperative efforts among academia, government, and the food industry resulted in the virtual eradication of deficiency diseases (Heybach et al., in press). No longer do hundreds of thousands of Americans die of pellagra each year, nor do we see children with bowed legs resulting from rickets. Goiter, a result of iodine defi- ciency, is not commonplace, as it once was in many parts of the United 148

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THE FOOD INDUSTRY AND NUTRITION i49 States. The elimination of nutrient deficiency disease was not the result of better food selection (i.e., consumers simply following the recommen- dations of nutrition researchers). Rather, it was the result of the food industry modifying the food supplyof adding iodine to salt, vitamin D to milk, and enriching cereal. Information from nutrition research led to a consensus on nutritional benefits and, eventually, to policies that the food industry could and did implement. The contemporary nutritional issues that demand the kind of cooperative effort described above are more complex than those of the past. Inadequate nutrient intake is still a concern. And although calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, pyridoxine, and folic acid intakes fall short of desirable levels, caloric intake appears to be excessive for many Americans (Pao and Mickle, 19811. Achieving lower caloric intakes with the existing food supply would further lower nutrient intake. The objective to ingest more nutrients and fewer calories requires a more nutrient-dense diet. Such a diet can be achieved by careful consumer selection of foods, an effective but unlikely solution. A better solution would be the evolution of a more nutnent- dense food supply. Another contemporar, and complex nutrition issue involves He view that better health can result from particular diets, for example, diets lower in fat, particularly saturated fat; lower in cholesterol; lower in calories; lower in salt; higher in fiber. Most consumers would have difficulty se- lecting and maintaining these diets. The food industry, however, could make a contribution if nutritional goals were clearly defined and supported by scientific consensus; if consumers were sufficiently convinced to purchase new products; and if manufacturers differentiated between Be new, improved and He old products in their marketing. ! The essential element for this process to occur is a clear scientific mandate for changes in our food supply. It can lead to workable public policy and regulations that in turn provide the framework for an effective food industry response. REFERENCES Heybach, J. P., G. D. Coccodrilli, and G. A. Leveille. In press. The contribution of processed food intake to the nutrient status of the U.S. population. In R. S. Hams and E. Karmas, eds. Nutritional Evaluation of Food Processing, 4th ed. AVI Publishing Co., Inc., Westport; Conn. Pao, E., and S. J. Mickle. 1981. Problem nutrients in the United States. Food Technol. 35:58- 79.