“Labels”

My 15-year-old son has a great sense of humor and is very funny. More importantly, when he finds something that tickles his funnybone (and the funnybones of his family), he repeats it…over and over.  I suppose I encourage this by laughing at his “material” most all the time.

Here’s an example. He loves to make fun of my dancing ability (as if there were such a thing) by swinging his hand back and forth like he’s conducting an orchestra, swiveling his hips and saying “do-tee-do- tee-do”. I’m not sure why it’s funny but I can’t stop cracking up. Tragically for me, the rest the family thinks it is pretty funny also.

Here’s another example. My son will pick up one of our Lab dogs, Bill Otis, and set him in his lap like he’s a person.  He will then point Bill’s front legs at me and flex the dog’s legs straight while simultaneously saying “you’re fired” in his best Donald Trump voice. He has created about 10 different versions of firing me with that Dog. He yells from the family room, “Dad, come here”! I walk around the corner to ask “what’s up” and get “fired” by the dog all the time.

One more example… Anytime my son sees a bag of baby carrots in a store or at home, he makes me read the ingredients label.  Ingredients: carrots. And then he laughs and repeats “carrots…get it?…CARROTS…can you believe that’s an ingredient?”  

My son has turned the irony of labeling requirements into his own, private joke!

Labeling of products has gone out of control in this country. The consumer “right to know”, safety and liability protection, marketing, promotion, information, and rules, rules, rules is driving labeling to the nonsensical. At some point, with so much labeling, it becomes just background “noise”.

Do these labels make us smarter? I suppose that’s like the question smart phones, do they make us smarter. The answer is most likely “sometimes” or “occasionally”.  However, the label will also cause us to act less smart by influencing our buying, eating, and emotional habits.

It’s my belief that labels for the most part have become important keys to today’s marketing of products, food included. We see these all the time…Caffeine free, All-natural, Artificial flavors added, Pesticide free, Organic, Hormone free, Natural sugar, Locally grown, Fair trade standards, Fat free, No trans fats, Humanely raised, etc., etc., etc.

The labels may be packed with information but they also can cause us to think and act in certain ways regarding the product…positive or negative.

The US Food and Drug Administration has a 9 page explanation on how to understand and use food label nutrition facts.  Really?  Who has time to review a manual every time you want to buy or eat.

And how about this…The US Food and Drug Administration’s Food Labeling Guide for Industry is 132 pages of detailed explanation about how a food label is to be properly developed, printed and displayed. The important facts are getting lost in the forest.

I did a quick look through our pantry at home and ran across a couple strange labels…

A Popcorn label said, “WHOLE GRAIN” and then a statement said “Made with 100% whole grain popcorn”.  Duh…everyone knows that popcorn wouldn’t pop if it was not whole grain, right?

I found in the pantry a bag containing a deer antler dog chew toy (I’m not sure why it was in the pantry). The label read… Ingredients: Real Deer Antlers.  I’m sure the dogs are very comforted by that label.

There was a Pastry Box with a warning label stating “pastry filling may be hot when heated”.  A lawyer must have been involved with that one…

These labels make me consider the recent labeling issues. There has been tremendous pressure by certain consumer activist groups and politicans to add more labeling to our foods…GMO’s and menu calorie counts.

Two efforts have been made recently in states to force labeling of GMO’s on food products…California and Washington. Both of these efforts eventually failed at the ballot box, primarily due to the promise of increased food costs, the complexities of managing such a labeling system on a State by State basis and the continued confusion of consumers. Many anticipate, however, efforts in other states will continue (including Illinois).

Farmers and Food producers have a legitimate fear that labeling GMO on foods will infer that there is something unsafe about biotech products despite a lack of scientific evidence to support such a claim. I am growing weary that everywhere I look, there is a label attempting to make me feel guilty for what I eat.  Stay out of my menus.

Further, a section of the Affordable Care Act requires food companies to list calorie counts on menus, vending machines, and other forms of food marketing to consumers. Can you imagine the impact on restaurants, grocery stores, pizza chains, and convenience stores?

Additional labeling seems to be simply a way to confuse the consumer even more…or provide my son with more humor “material”.

Incidentally, for the bag of whole almonds in the pantry… Ingredient:  Almonds.