Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

Lets spend 2 Billion to update a label that appears to do little good.

Face it, this is not the magic pill to cure the American obesity problem.  60% of Americans read food labels, roughly 40% of us are obese... coincidence?

And is that 60% an accurate number? It is based on self-reported behavior in polls.  A University of Minnesota study using eye tracking discovered the following: 

Researchers found a big difference between what the eye tracker said people looked at and what the participants self-reported they typically looked at while shopping. Thirty-three percent of participants said they “almost always” looked at a product’s calorie content on the Nutrition Facts label; 31% said they almost always looked at total fat content (20% said they looked at trans fats); 24% said they studied products’ sugar content and 26% said they paid close attention to serving size.

What the eye-tracking data showed: only 9% looked at calorie count for almost all the items in the experiment; 1% looked at each of the other components, including fat, trans fat, sugar and serving size, for almost all of the products. Time Magazine
 In 1990 at the introduction of mandatory food nutrition labeling the obesity rate in the US was 12%, today after more than 20 years that rate stands at 27.2%.

Now I'm not complaining about food nutrition labeling, I often look at the nutrition label especially on products I haven't previously consumed, but to be honest, I like the old label better than the new ones. 

What I take exception to is the rationale behind making the changes, the idea that these label changes are going to make a damn bit of difference is naive at best.  Few pay any attention at all to the serving size on the package, If you buy a muffin, you eat a muffin, most generally don't eat half a muffin. How many times have you eaten 11 Doritos Chips (140 calories)?

A very enlightening experience is keeping a food log, which I had to do as an assignment in a nutrition class I took.  I used to drink coffee all the time, pretty much whenever I was awake.  A cup of coffee has 1 calorie... until you add 2 TBSP of fat-free half & half (20 calories) and two teaspoons of sugar (32 calories).

But if you ask me, the problem isn't the calories we consume but the sedentary lifestyle we lead.  Sure you can lose weight by cutting calories, but you can also lose weight by increasing activity, which do you think is the healthier option? 

So what do you think of the proposed new labels? Waste of time or the greatest thing since sliced bread (67 calories)?

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