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With Americans now spending half of their food dollars, and getting the majority of their calories, at restaurants and other foodservice establishments such as grocers, a new nonprofit, non-governmental organization, the United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) has been launched to help consumers make better-informed decisions on where to eat. The Washington, D.C.-based council will work to improve Americans’ health by offering incentives, programs and tools to the foodservice industry to serve fresher, minimally processed, local and environmentally friendly options.
“Eating out has become a necessity for most Americans of all of ages and demographics, which means the restaurant and foodservice industry has unprecedented influence over the food choices and, consequently, the overall health of America,” explained USHFC president Lawrence Williams. “Unfortunately, the hyper-competitive nature of the restaurant business results in tremendous pressure to reduce costs, which typically comes at the price of consumers' health. The USHFC intends to promote eating establishments that are doing the right things, and assist those that are not.”
The USHFC will help consumers determine which foodservice providers that are employing nutrition best practices such as the use of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits; whole grains; moderate portion sizes; and minimally processed food and beverages with higher nutritional qualities, while decreasing the use of additives such as industrial trans fats, sugar, sodium and MSG. Further, foodservice providers will be credited for their use of environmentally friendly and humanely raised foods, along with special dietary offerings such as children’s menus, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, Paleolithic and the identification of common food allergens.
The organization is developing programs to provide recognition, incentives and assistance to operators across the entire foodservice spectrum, with initial programs being modeled after other nonprofit initiatives that have successfully encouraged corporations and independent businesses to align their practices with the interests of consumers, including the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Bottled Water Scorecard and The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building tating system.
Future programs will include cost-effective nutritional analysis and menu labeling (as required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act), advice on recipe reformulations, and collaborating with suppliers and restaurant purveyors to offer discounts on USHFC “certified” products
The USHFC is also interested in working with restaurant reservation and food review websites, as well as other environmental, nutrition and sustainable certification programs to help consumers make informed decisions on where to spend their food and beverage dollars, which are growing increasingly individualized. Programs in development include a nationwide, universal mobile application that will enable consumers to find the best food options to meet their personal needs.
Advised by a growing panel of experts, including industry leaders, policymakers and other health specialists, the USHFC is independently financed through tax-free donations from individuals and foundations.