Tuesday, January 03, 2012

What do we do when we can't trust food labels or the government agency that monitors them?

We're all concerned about health and nutrition and we should be. Heart disease, cancer and strokes are the top three causes of death in the United States. Diet is the biggest risk factor!  Did you know at least 30-40% of all cancers can be attributed to diet and lifestyle?

The government became interested in  the nutrition of its citizens in the 1930s and 40s and during WWII was especially concerned about making sure American soldiers were receiving the proper nutrition. Since that time we've relied on the government to establish guidelines and regulations related to food and drink. The RDA, which is the Recommended Daily Allowance establishes the "optimal amount for health and well-being."  The group responsible for the RDA standards is the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council.

In order to be sure they are eating healthy and getting the proper nutrition, the American people must be able to rely on food labels. But labels can be deceiving. In 2005, John Stossel did an excellent segment of his 20/20 "Give Me A Break" series in which he exposed the lies and misconceptions related to food labels and portion size. It's about five minutes long and you can view it below.

While some things have changed since Stossel's report, there is till much work to do and we're left wondering if we can believe what we're reading on food labels. Conducting our own research is cumbersome and time-consuming, most Americans don't have time for it, which is one of the great things about labels. I'm not saying that we should rely solely on the government or that we shouldn't do our own research but the fact of the matter is that a government agency whose purpose is to establish and monitor nutrition standards is supposed to make sure food companies do this for us and that the information is correct and in line with the agency's guidelines.

So what do we do when the established guidelines of the government agency are absurd and food companies mislead us on the labeling?

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