Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Baby steps

The FDA is finally starting to notice misleading claims on food labels. I would say that the products they have singled out so far happen to clearly violate some technicalities. Most of them do deserve to get slapped although I might cut the olive oil some slack -- yes it is fat but the point is it's better than the alternatives. The baby food gets whacked because basically, you can't make any claims about baby food. On the whole these aren't necessarily the most important examples of misleading food marketing, although the claims on green tea about treating Alzheimer's disease are definitely over the top offensive. But at least it's something.

The biggest problem is that the food which is actually the best for you is unprocessed, often unbranded, and generally makes no health claims at all. When was the last time you saw a health claim on a head of broccoli or a bag of dried beans? Marion Nestle (who bears an unfortunate appellation) has proposed doing away with health claims on food packages altogether. No matter how you try to regulate them, they are going to be tendentious. I tend to agree. Let the FDA and the CDC inform the public about what constitutes healthy eating; improve the readability and utility of the required nutritional label; and keep the propaganda off the box.

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