Tuesday, April 01, 2008

More Proof We're Failing

We in this case being a global we.

What are we failing at?

We're failing at ensuring the translation of evidence-based nutrition into easy to understand public education.

So what has been done?

We've allowed Big Food to come into our schools, consultations, dietetic organizations, influence national dietary recommendations and in general use their considerable clout to keep consumers confused to the point of paralysis regarding what's healthy and what's not.

So why am I ranting today?

According to a survey conducted by the international market research firm Mintel, British consumers felt that a food package's "recycling credentials" were more important to them than salt content, sugar content or Calorie content.


Probably because the average consumer doesn't have a clue how much salt, sugar or Calories they should be consuming and therefore those values on packages are effectively meaningless, whereas recycling information is consumable.

Unfortunately to date, governments, dietetic organizations, and of course Big Food, have been loathe to provide folks with consumption maximums. Instead they've been content to rely on fluffy, wishy-washy statements like, "there are no bad foods", or downright stupid statements like our Food Guide's, "Eat the recommended amount and type of food each day."

How about statements like, "Try not to eat more Calories than you burn" along with a calculator to help you figure out how many that might be, or, "aim for less than 2,000mg of sodium daily", or "aim for less than 50g of sugar daily"

Until we actually educate folks how to interpret a food label with actual recommended maximums, we're really not going to get anywhere.

I suppose one good thing will come of it all and that is apparently our food packages, and hopefully our effectively useless Food Guide, will at the very least end up in their appropriate recycling bins.

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  1. I look forward to reading your daily postings.

    Anyhow, in response to educating people, I couldn't agree more. I often get asked to tag along during other people's food shopping. During these escapades, I find that many think they know how to read the food label. The astonishing part is that they never turn the package over. They see the giant "NO TRANS-FAT", "Organic", "Low-Fat" and allow these buzz-words to decide for them. You have covered it in your blog (I remember that oreo specifically).

    Advertising the product in random places doesn't bother me, but advertising it's great 'healthy' aspects on the package does.

  2. Hello, I found your blog by chance. It's lovely.

    When I become Prime Minister, I will make it compulsory for sixth students to study Food & Nutrition. This will go a long way towards destroying the unintentional ignorance that is destroying our waist lines and health.

    So don't forget to vote for me ;-)


  3. This is interesting actually and proves that in the States you are at least a step ahead of us here in the UK as most people here don't give a s*** about recycling either!

    Personally I think packaging issues are as important as food content issues. Here in the UK we have a "traffic lights" system; red orange or green stickers on the packaging that denote bad, medium and good quantitites of fats, sugars and salts in the meals - as well as how much of your daily %tage that is. Since bringing this in I think a lot more people are aware of their daily allowances and what is in the food they buy.