Nutrition standards for away-from-home foods in the USA
Cohen DA, and Bhatia R.
Away-from-home foods are regulated with respect to the prevention of food-borne diseases and potential contaminants, but not for their contribution to dietary-related chronic diseases. Away-from-home foods have more calories, salt, sugar and fat, and include fewer fruits and vegetables than recommended by national nutrition guidelines. Thus, frequent consumption of away-from-home foods contributes to obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In light of this, many localities are already adopting regulations or sponsoring programs to improve the quality of away-from-home foods. We review the rationale for developing nutritional performance standards for away-from-home foods in light of limited human capacity to regulate intake or physiologically compensate for a poor diet. We offer a set of model performance standards to be considered as a new area of environmental regulation. Models for voluntary implementation of consumer standards exist in the environmental domain and may be useful templates for implementation. Implementing such standards, whether voluntarily or via regulations, will require addressing a number of practical and ideological challenges. Politically, regulatory standards contradict the belief that adults should be able to navigate dietary risks in away-from-home settings unaided.
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