J500 Media and the Environment


Why scanning food labels makes us helpless by bryand09

Halfway through reading the label on Aunt Jemima’s — so hungry for some big, fluffy Mickey Mouse pancakes — we come to sodium aluminum phosphate. What is sodium aluminum phosphate? What food group is it in? Is it meat? or vegetarian friendly?

from flickr.com, by my new clever name

from flickr.com, by my new clever name

Label scanning becomes a part of our everyday lives once we go vegetarian or vegan or make any sort of dietary commitment toward low sodium or vitamin rich foods or whatever dieting fad consumers are currently supporting.

We scan the label. Twice. And then pass it to our friend and ask if he knows what sodium aluminum phosphate is.

I would argue, though, by the time we start looking at the so called “nutritional facts and ingredients” that it is too late, that we are missing the point. Sure, we can be upset or slightly disgusted that some of the ingredients in Twinkies are also found in floor cleaners, oils, etc. That is sort of nasty.

  • But we should really be upset at ourselves for scrutinizing food labels on boxes and cans and packages instead of abandoning those pre-made foods and going for the basic ingredients in the produce isle and building our own meals from the base up with ingredients we cannot only conceptualize what they are — broccoli, green, round, cold, wet and rough to the fingers — but where they came from — the ground twenty miles from here.

    Knowing what goes into your body is important; we are what we eat. But at the point of making a last minute scan of the pancakes, we are — and look like — a bunch of confused consumers, fluffy and ready for the corporate feasting.

    Bryan Dykman

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    4 Comments so far
    Leave a comment

    Growing up in a fast paced society teaches people fast paced eating habits at a very young age. I think its time to include food on our educational agendas in elementary schools. How else can the trend of processed food be broken?

    Comment by christinaw09

    Agreed. Not only do we need to teach you people about nutrition (in a way that is not cliche and full of pyramids) but also, we need to talk about local food.

    Many states have lunch menus that include locally grown foods. Not only does it give the children a sense of where their food comes from, but also it gives local farmers an economic boost and steady contract to fulfill.

    Comment by bryand09

    All I keep wondering is how much fat, sugar, calories, etc. that baby contains…

    Comment by Lauren Keith

    Thanks, I’ll definitely look at his stuff for the NY Times.

    I agree that once we’re reading packaged food labels there’s something wrong in the first place, but it’s a hard thing to get away from.

    Comment by amandat09




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