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The nutrition Tower of Babel.

The Nutrition Tower of Babel

Regulation of food labeling continues to be inadequate and lacking in protection.

In what is being heralded as a "sweeping" change in legislation to protect the consumer, food processors are warned that labels must reveal the percentage of saturated fat and unsaturated fat and the amount of fiber, cholesterol, and calories from fat and sodium.

All sugars in a product may be grouped together rather than included among the ingredients listed in order of predominance. By permitting a few small victories into the marketplace, the consumer will probably be lulled into believing that the most serious problems inherent in food marketing today have been solved.

Unfortunately, nothing has been clearly established that can guide the consumer into making wise and prudent selections. Only more confounding information will be added to the package, creating Towers of Babel, or a multiplicity of confusing statements.

"Saturated fats" and "unsaturated fats" are important designations to those who know what these terms mean and how they can affect health. Are we to assume that every shopper will have had a primary course in basic nutrition? Besides, there are "authorities" who insist that there's nothing wrong in a diet packed with cholestereol-loaded saturated fat.

Dextrose, fructose, and barley malt -- all variations of sugar. Who will inform the unwary shopper that the product is steeped in sugar no matter how varied the description?

Although sulfites have been banned in the use of freshening vegetables on display, many products, including wine, are still made with the chemical present. Shouldn't some warning be included for the benefit of those who have not learned that sulfites can be responsible for severe allergic reactions?

Probably more devastating that any other single ingredient contained in proceed foods (for those who are allergic) is the use of monosodium glutamate (MSG). It appears in many disguises, sometimes identified, often not. Evasive descriptions such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, and natural flavorings reveal no warnings to the susceptible.

MSG, as George Schwartz, the eminent crusading physician, has emphasized, could be responsible for ailments seemingly far removed from digestive distress. He contends that it has been implicated in damage to the central nervous system, endocrine organ disorders, cardiac distress, and illness in other parts of the body.

Truth in labeling, to be beneficial, should include the hazards inherent in a food product. Merely to identify the contents with meaningless verbiage provides the consumer with a false sense of security.

Another frustrating problem confronts the average consumer shopping in a food market: the inability to read the labels.

It is not a matter of literacy. Labels are often printed in type too small to be legible. Frequently, the label is printed on dark backgrounds that cannot be easily discerned. Who hasn't struggled to read a list of ingredients buried in a green, red, or purple print?

Clarity is necessary in both meaning and readability. The shopper cannot go armed with a dictionary and a magnifying glass.
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Title Annotation:food labeling is inadequate and lacks protection
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:editorial
Date:Mar 22, 1990
Previous Article:A matter of ethics.
Next Article:"You mean there is a name for it?" (high school student suffers obsessive-compulsive disorder)

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