Sunday, June 17, 2012

REAL FOOD DIDN'T USED TO NEED LABELING

Someone brought a bag of multigrain chips to our house for a family gathering (our family can't gather without food). I munched a few, and they were OK, but not terrific. I think that they weren't terrific because they were developed to meet multiple dietary restrictions. Here is a panel from the bag label:


Now, I understand that people who have allergies, high cholesterol and various other intolerances or voluntary dietary preferences want to know what they are about to eat - or not eat. But seriously, doesn't this seem a bit far out there? Real food doesn't really need to be labeled with any information other than the ingredients. Even real processed food, for example: potato chips (potatoes, salt and oil), corn chips (corn and lime and oil), pretzels (wheat, leavening, salt) and etc. Yeah, I know, what about all the food additives - well, that's my point, isn't it? If food ingredients are simple enough because the food is real food, then I would think that every consumer is intelligent enough to read the short list of ingredients and know whether or not they want to introduce the subject substance into their digestive system.

The list of ingredients for the above multigrain chips: stone ground corn, high oleic sunflower oil and/or safflower oil and/or canola oil, brown rice flour, flax seeds, cane sugar, oat fiber, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, quinoa, soy flour, sea salt. (And, of course, because the attorneys insist: "Allergy information: CONTAINS SOY AND SESAME" - as if people who can read the allergy information statement can't read the ingredients!). So are all of the symbols shown above necessary? Of course not, except maybe the certified kosher symbol. Are we consumers so ignorant that we can't read a simple list of ingredients and make our own decisions?

The now mandatory Nutrition Facts box on all food labels has always perplexed me. I understand that some people need to calculate their intake of certain things for health reasons. I also understand that this legal requirement is meant to protect consumers from food manufacturers who put all kinds of stuff into our food - or don't. But I've wondered how many of us really understand the information in this box; I certainly don't. I always glance at the relative amounts of fats because I am blood lipid challenged, but as far as the rest - hmmmm, can't really say that it means much to me.

So we're back to the beginning; real food didn't used to need labeling.

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