infinity plus two food giants have long been in the habit of selling their foods with, well, lies about what’s in them. kelloggs cornflakes infused with brain juice that will turn your kids into A students, iced teas and fruit smoothies with x,y,z mineral that boosts your immune system and vitality, etc.
well, the CSPI and lots of food/nutrition experts and policy have been fighting a long battle to motivate the FDA to really cut down on food producers misusing health claims. the fact of the matter is that labels like “all-natural,” “sweetened with natural fruit juices,” “boosts your immune system,” “filled with vitamins and minerals,” are all sexy to a consumer body that knows that healthy=natural=good. as long as the claims are attractive enough that people buy a lot of the stuff, the consequences of consuming a lot of it is second priority.. or just a priority at all. marion nestle gives us a great example of a joke health benefit with POM , which is essentially sour sugar water/really tasty, if you’re into that.
recently, the FDA made a discouraging announcement, that pursuing companies using misleading health claims, would not be a priority. Michael Taylor, their Deputy Commissioner for Foods readily explained in an Atlantic op-ed:
But FDA must pick its battles—and set its priorities—in a way that will best benefit the public health. To that end, we have launched a major campaign to improve nutrition labeling —a campaign whose goal is to ensure that consumers can rely on food labels to make informed choices, build healthy diets, and reduce their risk of obesity and chronic disease. And the top priority for us right now is to be sure consumers can readily find—on food labels—sound, up-to-date information about the nutritional profile of foods.
because, i know, and you know, that i want to spend a lot of time at the grocery store reading about every ingredient (all 33) that goes into my box of cereal. in fact, i would much prefer this than say, glancing at the front of the package, where it says “made with all natural ingredients!” and taking the label’s word for it. if the food marketer is an irresponsible liar, that’s too bad for him–because, after all, i’m a responsible consumer– and you should be too. how can we rely on food labels if other labels make claims that seem just as sound?
anyway- the center for science in public interest has not let this issue go to rest. they’ve been on ben and jerry’s case about advertising their ice cream, which contains high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, hydrogenated oils, alkalized cocoa, and anhydrous dextrose (don’t what this is but that shit don’t sound natural) and on the fda’s case to do something about. well, the fda has real problems to worry about, so it is encouraging that Unilever (b&j’s manufacturers) stepped up and volunteered to drop the act on it’s own.
haagen- daaz took another approach a year ago and created an alternative product, haagen-daaz 5, made with just five ingredients, in response to pollan’s books. probably a more profitable thing to do.
it’s ridiculous that ben and jerry’s is making news for admitting that their ice cream is not all natural. but it’s also ridiculous that people buy LOTS of junk because they believe claims. instead of coming up with a turn of the century label system that will help all of us consumers read labels more easily (?) or drafting “guidance for industry on how companies can make positive statements about a food’s contribution to an overall healthy diet,” how about making a short list of ingredients that cannot be advertised as having beneficial health effects. a simple set of guidelines that all food manufacturers should abide by will help reduce confusion amongst consumers, and force companies to STOP LYING about what is our food. foods like ice cream, sugary drinks, processed snacks, foods high in fat might not be blatantly threatening, like, say salmonella contaminated spinach. but, misleading labels on these food certainly do lend to higher consumption of these foods, feeding disease, one day at a time.
..it’s kind of like in mean girls, when lindsay lohan (BIG FOOD) tricked a girl (US) into eating protein bars to lose weight… but she didn’t lose weight.. she gained it (*still us*)!
please FDA. protect us from the mean girls.