CNS News thought this was newsworthy because Michelle Obama said that mothers in America are “confused,” “bewildered,” and “defeated” by grocery shopping. She was referring to food labels and advocating better ones.
I’m as opposed to the FLOTUS and her ambitious, greedy ways as anyone, but I think we should give her speech a bit more attention to figure out what is going on with our government and our grocery shopping. (Also, to give the devil her due: kudos to Michelle for affirming some traditional gender roles, even if woman as only grocery shoppers is not a stereotype the Bible demands.)
I couldn’t find a video of the FLOTUS actually describing the label changes, so here is a typical news summary:
The change in serving size is absolutely brilliant (much better than Michelle Obama’s own school program). They are changing the serving size based on how much we actually eat. They are also getting rid of the “calories from fat” number because the food industry has been forced to admit that fat is not always bad for you. Besides, steering people away from fat has herded them directly into increased sugar consumption, which, unlike fat, actually encourages obesity and other problems. Even in 2014 this confusion causes us to make stupid decisions and think we are being healthy.
But before I write anything more about the content of the labels, I want to point out the problem of the labels themselves. Michelle Obama pointed it all out in her speech. Labels are supposed to be the way that busy shoppers make food choices in the grocery store.
That is insane.
There was a time when making food choices was a much less acute problem because people didn’t have choices. They purchased what was in season, what was available. Now, thanks to economic and technological development, we all have a bazillion choices. Consumer choice means consumers must get educated if they want to learn how to make the best choices. You don’t get educated by reading a food label. You get educated by reading a book or doing some online research. Unless you already have a settled conviction about how to buy food before you reach the grocery store, food labels are not going to help you.
And relying on your government to give you the information you need in those labels is a risky leap of faith. The government has taken upon itself a variety of responsibilities, both keeping you healthy and making sure that agri-business prospers. By definition, the only way to keep those two commitments out of conflict is to insist that the only issue for health is portion control and/or calorie counting. That way you can tell people to include a bit of everything in their daily diets. But that claim is highly dubious. Whether it is the Sugar-Busters people or the Eades and their Protein Power, or the low-carb Atkins Diet or the Primal eating strategy or “the Paleo Diet,” or the relatively recent “Wheat Belly” book, there are many voices dissenting from the FDA’s government-imposed food orthodoxy.
The new food labels double down on calorie consumption as the Holy Grail of dietary health. That may be what is making us sick. Notice that, since the first round of food labeling two decades ago, people haven’t improved in their nutritional health according to our own government. For all we know, food labeling made the situation worse.
Furthermore, what is the deal with all those Daily Values? For sugar, protein, fat, etc. are we supposed to come out at one hundred percent for every nutrient every day for everyone we are shopping for? If not, then why is it on the label? No wonder shoppers are “confused.” No one can make that kind of calculation while grocery shopping.
But doesn’t this all seem neurotic? Supposedly we all are getting fatter and sicker from a couple of generations ago. OK, then, how did they count calories so carefully without labels? How did they make sure they were getting the right amount of nutrients? Plainly, they didn’t. People have been living healthy for thousands of years without knowing anything about how much riboflavin they are supposed to consume each day. Obviously, the body is supposed to take care of itself as you eat and does so successfully in many situations. It is not obvious that food labels are an answer to the problems we face.
My advice is to stop renting out space in your mind to the FDA and its questionable “help.” Instead, do your own food research for you and your family and make your own decisions.
Michelle Obama says she is offering us an improved ability to shop in the grocery store and make healthy choices. I think she is distracting us from the actions we each need to take to become informed consumers.