In preparation for my upcoming interview with Carlo Besozzi, I thought I should take a few minutes to make a passionate appeal for honesty and transparency on ingredient lists.
Let’s face the facts, the U.S. does not do a very good job promoting accuracy in food labeling. Terms like organic, free-range and, my personal favorite, “all natural,” are tossed around meaninglessly – and consumers eat it up.
This could be a problem | Photo courtesy of NextNature
Take, for example, the term “free range.” According to the USDA, free range means:
“Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”
That’s not an excerpt from their definition. That’s the whole thing. No provisions on the amount of time spent outside, the type of “outside” (cement slab?), the amount of room afforded per chicken. It’s not exactly a secret that most so-called free range chickens don’t spend their lives roaming green pastures.
Anyways, assuming the vast readership of this blog isn’t so much interested in buying meat, let’s discuss something a little nearer and dearer to our hearts – ingredient lists.
“Artificial flavors” and “natural flavors” are the crux of the problem, in my opinion. What do those phrases mean? What do they exclude? Where do they come from?
Let’s take a quick break from the recipes…
School lunches in the US are pathetic. For all the talk about this country as the richest in the world, you would never know it by looking at the garbage that we feed to our schoolchildren. It’s a complicated issue to solve, I’m sure, and one that is compounded by several factors – lack of diet and nutrition education, funding from junk food companies (Coke and Pepsi, I’m looking at you), food contracts awarded to the lowest bidders, decrease in physical education, and an education system that is underfunded to begin with.
Adding to the problem is the undeniable fact that many kids don’t use their lunch money to purchase a well-balanced meal (if even possible). At my high school, $2.50 would buy you a full lunch, complete with meat, veggies, fruits, bread, and milk. OR it could buy a soda, french fries, and pack of cookies. Guess what the kids choose?
Now, I left public education a while ago, but not much has changed since then. Kids are still eating french fries by the handful, and those corn-syrup-infused fruit cups are still the closest thing to fresh produce that move in the lunch line.
School lunch collage. Photo from NPR.com