The 10 Most Powerful Food Lobbies And How They Decide What's On Your Plate (And In Your Glass)

The 10 Most Powerful Food Lobbies and How They Decide What’s on Your Plate (and in Your Glass)

This year, food lobbyists have been agonizing over various food labeling measures. A large number of the reports filed by lobbyists this year have dealt with proposed food labeling laws, including those covering GMOs, country-of-origin, health-issues, and nutrition, which affect everything from distributors to producers to grocery stores and restaurant chains.

Our list of the top 10 most powerful food lobbyists was compiled based upon the number of their special filings either for or against food industry legislation presented in Congress. If there was a tie, we then sorted by how many separate food issues they were involved in lobbying, and finally, by the amount of money spent by the lobbies during 2015. 

#10 Monsanto

It might seem surprising that one of the largest and most controversial companies in the food industry lands at number 10 on our list. However, Monsanto, the world's largest producer of GMO and other proprietary seeds, focuses almost all its energy and money fighting the GMO-labeling battle.

#9 McDonald’s Corporation

McDonald's has historically opposed the so-called "Happy Meal" laws that insisted on nutrition labeling at fast food restaurants. The company spends about a billion dollars on advertising each year, a significant portion of that (the company won't reveal how much) directed at children — a 2013 study showed that elementary school children saw an average of 254 McDonald's ads per year — which opponents of fast food chains say entices youngsters to develop unhealthy eating habits.

#8 Food Machinery Corporation

FMC, despite its name, is a chemical manufacturing company, so why do they care so much about the food industry? They produce insecticides and weed killers, and in 2010 started a partnership with Monsanto to produce the Roundup Ready PLUS Weed Management Solutions for Monsanto's GMO crops. In 2015, they expanded that relationship to Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Management Solutions line that continues to develop more products to work in sync with Monsanto's GMO seeds. Since their partnership with Monsanto to and have exerted a considerable amount of energy trying to defeat GMO labeling measures from passing.

#7 HEB Grocery

HEB Grocery is a privately owned grocery store chain based in Texas with additional stores in Northern Mexico. This year, the company has set its sights on supporting the Commonsense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015, which would allow flexibility for food retailers as they transition to comply with the Food and Drug Administration's menu-labeling regulations.

#6 American Beverage Association

In July of this year, the American Beverage Association sued the city of San Francisco for requiring health warning labels on sugary drinks and banning advertising by soda companies on government property. The warning language reads: "WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay." The suit is not yet resolved.

#5 National Restaurant Association

The "other" NRA has been scarcely less successful than the one that deals with firearms. This NRA's main target recently has been living wage legislation, which they've fought by attempts to block it, spinning tales of the economic collapse a higher minimum wage would bring, and winning major concessions in states where the measures successfully passed. 

#4 Coca-Cola Company

Coca-Cola Company proved that money talks when they spent millions to defeat soda taxes that have failed to pass in New York City and Hawaii, as well as Richmond, California, and San Francisco. The Coca-Cola Company has also teamed up with the American Beverage Association and Pepsi Co., together spending upwards of $70 million to defeat other soda tax measures around the United States.

#3 PepsiCo Inc.

Joel Leftwich, the USDA's Agriculture Committee's chief-of-staff, is the former senior director for PepsiCo's public policy and government affairs team. The Agriculture Committee is responsible for setting dietary guidelines for school meals and the the Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, among other policy making decisions. It's not the only time a lobbyist for Big Food has turned government servant.

#2 Nestlé S.A.

Reports filed by Nestlé S.A. have hinted that the company is pushing back against food labeling laws as well as the School Food Modernization Act.

#1 Grocery Manufacturers Association

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is by far the largest food lobby in our country. Most recently, they showed their strength and craft at swaying political opinion by setting up a dummy site to divert attention away from the release of the documentary film Fed Up. The site had a similar URL and design, but pushed a very different agenda. The film points a finger at food lobbyists and creative marketing for pushing processed foods on the American public, ultimately affecting the obesity rates in the United States, where as the GMA's site includes a quiz for visitors to take with answers that support the processed foods industry.