WHAT DO those who have been involved with the food issues of the last decade see for the next one?
More problems and more awareness.
Five former and current consumer advocates agree that the public is far more sophisticated and knowledgeable about nutrition and food safety than it was 10 years ago. "The public has a much greater concern today with health and with how the food they eat affects their health," said Carol Foreman, assistant agriculture secretary for food and nutrition. Foreman was once executive director of the Consumer Federation of America.
She thinks the "public is really ahead of the experts and in the future, the food industry will begin to see the public's concern about nutrition and health as great marketing tools."
Midge Shubow, who works in the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, believes nutrition has become "a household word" because of the Senate Nutrition Committee's Dietary Goals and the recent Surgeon General's report.
Shubow, who used to work with Foreman at Consumer Federation of America, said Americans want labeling. They want to know what is in foods and they want foods with fewer additives.
The desire for increased labeling information is the most significant trend of the '70s, according to a former presidential consumer adviser, Betty Furness. Furness, now a consumer reporter for the "Today" show, says her mail reflects an "interest in ingredient labeling we didn't get 10 years ago. Increased labeling," Furness said, "doesn't make the food any better, but gives us an idea of what we are eating." "
Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Interest Health Research Group, sees a return to foods the way they used to be -- free of unnecessary additives. Like the others interviewed, Wolfe believes the public is leading the way.
Ralph Nader agrees, but warns about the more serious danger that faces this country in the next decade."The big sleeper in food is environmental pollution. Just look at the lead from highways next to where crops are grown, to polluted shelfish. All of that is going to become extraordinarily visible because it's easier to detect these pollutants now."
Nader's concern echos that expressed in a new report from the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. The report warns that "environmental contamination of food is a nationwide problem."
Nader believes that "everyone is afraid of the issue because they don't know how to regulate it. How can you tell a farmer you can't grow crops because airports are dumping toxins all over their crops? It's very tough regulating against victims to protect third parties [consumers]. In the next few years we have to get farmers and consumers together to gang up on the polluters."
Because of this issue Nader thinks "things are worse than they were 10 years ago."