A Simple Label for Our Food « Health Now, Wealth Forever

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By Marilyn, on October 17th, 2012

I have been receiving a lot of information on facebook about GMO’s and California’s vote for better labeling.  I was thinking about food labels and how much I do not know about what is in the food I buy.  The list of chemicals that I have no idea what they are or how to pronounce them bothers me very much.  Mark Bittman of the New York Times said this on October 13, 2012:

“A mandate to improve compulsory food labels is unlikely any time soon. Front-of-package labeling is sacred to big food companies, a marketing tool of the highest order, a way to encourage purchasing decisions based not on the truth but on what manufacturers would have consumers believe.”

Why is our health at risk by big corporations and what they want you to know or not know?

Bittman believes there should be a simple front of the package label that will allow ”consumers to truly make an enlightened decision about foods.”  He feels that the nutrition facts of the food are not the only thing we need to consider when making food choices, but also “ the well-being of the earth (and that means, climate, soil, water and air quality), the people who grow and prepare our food, the animals we eat, the overall wholesomeness of the food—what you would call its foodness”, as opposed to its fakeness.  Not only would you know the nutritional and ingredients, but also at a glance whether foods contain antibiotics, pesticides, hormones, trans fats, chemicals, GMOs, or anything not naturally occurring in the food.

His label “would feature a color-coded bar with a 15-point scale so that almost instantly the consumer could determine whether the product’s overall rating fell between 11-15 (green), 6-10 (yellow) and 0-5 (red).”   The score is arrived at by rating three key factors.  

First, nutrition—high sugar, trans fat, the presence of micronutrients and fiber, etc.

Second would be the “foodness”—assesses just how close the product is to real food.  Such as white bread made with white bleached flour, yeast conditioners and preservatives would get 0 or 1.

The Third is the trickiest—it is called “Welfare”. “This would include the treatment of workers, animals, and the earth.  Are workers treated like animals? Are animals treated like widgets?  Is environmental damage significant?  If the answer to those three questions is “yes” —as it might be, with industrially produced chickens—then the score would be zero or close to it.”

This label makes a lot of sense.  I liked the example which is easy to read and interpret.  I would love to know how some of our health foods would rate.

Take for instance, canola oil.  Canola oil is used extensively in most foods.  That is one ingredient I look for in the list of ingredients.  My body does not like canola oil!  Canola oil comes from the rapeseed plant which is toxic to humans.  The rapeseed has been genetically modified to be safe for humans to become the canola seed.  There was not a naturally occurring canola seed—it is a GMO.  This is an easily produced oil, grows well and, when polyunsaturated oils such as corn oil went out of style, canola oil, which is a monounsaturated oil stepped in as the new “healthy oil”. Be aware of the way it is produced though.  If it is produced using a high-temperature mechanical pressing and uses a solvent extract—usually hexane, even after considerable refining, traces of the solvent remain. It also goes through a bleaching, “degumming”, deodorizing and caustic refining, at high temperatures.  This can alter the omega-3 content.   It has not been extensively tested and since Monsanto has joined in the production of canola seed with its pesticide resistant genetically modified seed, it contains stuff that I do not want to eat.  There is a lot on the Internet that says it is wonderful and much that says it is not.  For me, I am not a fan and will continue to avoid it.

The FDA has okay-ed it, but it cannot be used in infant formula.  But since the FDA does okay many things that are not safe—for instance Thalidomide and Vioxx—beware.


Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2009, February 13)

MG Enig, Trans Fatty Acids in the Food Supply: A Comprehensive Report Covering 60 Years of Research, 2nd Edition, Enig Associates, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, 1995

Wall Street Journal, June 7, 1995, p. B6