Consumers Speak; Animal Crackers Freed

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October 17, 2018
Lisa Lupo

Over the past few years, I’ve written a number of articles and spoken at conferences about current issues and trends in food safety and quality. Inevitably, the article or presentation has included a strong focus on the power of consumers; on the fact that food industry trends are nearly always propelled by consumers in one way or another.

In fact, if you don’t think consumers and advocacy groups drive the food industry, you may have somehow missed the latest viral news on Mondelez/Nabisco’s redesigned animal crackers packaging. In case you haven’t heard, here’s the story direct from the sources:

PETA:“For more than a century, Nabisco’s Barnum’s Animals crackers have been sold in boxes that depict lions, gorillas, elephants, and other animals caged in a circus boxcar. But following discussions with PETA, in which we suggested a new design, the brand has redesigned the packaging to show animals free in nature instead of held captive in cages for human entertainment.”(https://www.peta.org/blog/barnums-animals-crackers)

Mondelez:“When PETA reached out about Barnum’s, we saw this as another great opportunity to continue to keep this brand modern and contemporary.”(https://www.apnews.com/807c70b54651496c8fb6d3a78225b84d)

 
While this label change may not have a direct focus on food safety or quality, it does show the extent to which food companies are being “dogged” by and heeding consumer advocacy. There also is a distinct indirect linkage — that of animal welfare. If advocates are this concerned about an illustrated image of caged animals, there’s no question that the humane treatment of real, live animals is high on their priority list — and that does directly impact production managers charged with food safety and quality.

It also calls to mind other package label issues that are impacting food production — the most obvious of which is GMOs. What started as a “patchwork” of state laws for GMO/non-GMO labeling is now under the auspices of USDA. But because the department has not met the deadline for finalization of a labeling rule, it is being sued by the Center for Food Safety (CFS). The lawsuit seeks a court order for USDA to finalize and issue the regulations as soon as reasonably practicable, according to a court-ordered timeline, and for the court to retain jurisdiction to ensure compliance with its decree, “thereby ensuring consumers are afforded free choice as well as the right to transparency and full disclosure in the marketplace.” (https://bit.ly/2xfHM42)

None of this is new, but the consumer-driven “freeing” of illustrated animals seems to add an entirely new dimension to consumer advocacy on which the food industry is well-advised to stay informed — and ahead of as much as possible.