Thursday, 26 August 2010

New labelling requirements for US chain restaurants and vending machines

Updated on 28 October 2010

I think the latter recipient of this new law says it all -- vending machines. After all, restaurants such as McDonalds are little more than vending machines since the people who work in these establishments have been turned into cogs in the wheel, so to speak.  Fast food is mechanically constructed and analysed like fuel for a machine.  Since we are not machines, this new labelling law will not help us.

But what of the caloric and other ‘vital’ information that consumers will now be able to take note of when they grab their big Mac, fries and Coke? Under the heading of 'Nutrition Facts' we are given categories that include fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fibre, total protein and calories.  First of all, the implication is that these boxed areas are the most important nutrients in food which can be as deceptive as considering the sugar in an apple (with no label) compared to a chocolate bar.  Secondly, this labelling implies that if these things are considered, then a healthy diet can be achieved, which is quite unlikely since nutrition is complex.  And thirdly, it requires that consumers carry around a calculator, chart and even a scale to add up these categories on a daily basis, which of course, they won’t, at least not on any long-term basis -- who has the time?  Most people probably won't even look at these labels, making them a waste of time and money.

What’s next? Will labels be required on coconuts because of high saturated fat content? What about celery, which has high sodium content? Or perhaps grapes need a label because of high sugar content?  This would require even more packaging, which the environment could certainly do without, and most people as well.

As far as health matters are concerned with fast food and vending machine products, labelling GM ingredients, additives, chemical residues, and lack of nutritional value because of processing the foods would be much more effective.  It would even be easier because a blanket label to say that 'this food contains virtually no nutritional value' could be applied to many products such as sugary drinks and snacks. People need to think about why they eat from a HOLISTIC nutritional standpoint. But our societies, at the behest of corporations, now eat for every reason but to sustain and nourish our health!

Details of this news and law are available on these links:

US Agricultural and Food law and policy blog

US Food and Drug Administration

Reuters article

Wall Street Journal article

Photo credit and information on how to read this label.

More wasted effort:
Food Association Plans a Package-Front Label Showing Nutritional Data, New York Times, October 27,2010