When the Food Label Doth Protest Too Much

July 10, 2012 | By | Comments (3)

Not to get all curmudgeonly/Andy Rooney here, but…have you ever noticed that lately there’s a growing trend in packaged foods whereby the manufacturers are taking great pains to inform you, in BIG, BOLD letters, what is NOT in the items?

This holds true for both foods and other products—such as plastics, beauty supplies, and cleaning products. Hey! Gluten free! Wheat free! Dairy free! Soy free! BPA free! Paba free! Sulfate free! The list of “frees” goes on and on.

I began noticing this around the time I read a short piece in TIME magazine which actually termed this phenomenon “Ingredient Anxiety.” I don’t mean to imply that full disclosure is a bad thing, or that certain people need to avoid certain things…but sometimes it’s overkill when a box of raisins gets all screamy about how FAT FREE! and GLUTEN FREE! each wrinkly one is! I mean, that’s sort of obvious, I think. I see this sort of thing all the time, and it strikes me as a bit much. Especially when I see it on something like a box of dubiously-healthy “fruit” snacks—proudly emblazoned with the tag NO DAIRY! or LOW SODIUM! or something, as if that absolves it of any other dietary sin!

In other cases—mostly in cosmetics and cleaning supplies—the stuff they’re boasting about being devoid of is something I wasn’t even (yet) aware of as a hazard. The TIME article highlights 1,4-dioxane and quaternium 15, which can be found in many cleansers and baby shampoos. Apparently, they’re, um, known carcinogens, and are slowly being phased out. Wow. I guess in this case, the label is a good thing…a public service, if you will.

Bottom line: I’m just suspicious when I see some sort of food in a package that is falling all over itself telling me what’s NOT in it.

Have you noticed this labeling thing?

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