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This Blog Is Sodium-Free!

Nice one from XKCD today:

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The regulation requiring food producers to list the amount of trans fats in their food had the beneficial effect of sharply reducing the amount of trans fats in foods. But it had the annoying effect of convincing all the world's food producers to slap a "no trans fats!" on the package. Thanks very much, but I didn't think my fruit popsicles were thick with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the first place.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 25, 2009; 3:28 PM ET
 
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Comments

Who's terrific idea was it to allow some trans fats up to a certain level to be reported as zero trans fats?

This is worse; we get the claim of zero trans fats where it is not zero.

Like I said yesterday a large part of K Street's job is to keep the door open to the snake oil salesmen.

Posted by: bcbulger | September 25, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I got hung up on StayPuft, thinking the cartoon was some kind of oblique Ghostbusters reference, and that GenCo and RedFarm were similarly obscure movie/sf fake-product-placement companies.

Also, I think it would be cool if you would add the alt-text when you reprint xkcd.

Posted by: rusty_spatula | September 25, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

my favorite is the chicken and eggs with the label HORMONE FREE!* then, elsewhere, *FEDERAL LAW PROHIBITS THE USE OF HORMONES IN POULTRY.

Posted by: valkyrieofBI | September 25, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=974#comic

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal did this two years ago. Better, even.

Posted by: Postman4 | September 25, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Well, if we're nitpicking, then GOB on Arrested Development did have that "The Frozen Banana that WON'T make you sick and kill you" sign a few years before that.

Posted by: shanehuang | September 25, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,

If you haven't already, please take a look at the New York Times article, "For Your Health, Froot Loops" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/05/business/05smart.html ). Quoting:

A new food-labeling campaign called Smart Choices, backed by most of the nation’s largest food manufacturers, is “designed to help shoppers easily identify smarter food and beverage choices.”

The green checkmark label that is starting to show up on store shelves will appear on hundreds of packages, including — to the surprise of many nutritionists — sugar-laden cereals like Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops.

End Quote

A key problem with this is that healthy foods like unprocessed fruits and vegetables contain hundreds of important phytochemicals (nutrients; there's far more than just the currently well studied vitamins and minerals) in combinations and proportions that humans evolved for. High processing, as in Cocoa Krispies takes out almost all of them, then they put in a ton of refined sugar, and add back in maybe 10 of the 500 nutrients they took out and call it healthy, and Republicans fight to let them do it.

For a great survey of the scientific evidence on this, I strongly recommend "Eat to Live", by top nutritionist Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | September 25, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

It's not just food. My shaving gel can says "No CFCs," which is way less impressive a claim if you happen to know that using CFCs as a propellant was made illegal in the middle 70s.

Posted by: DonWhiteside | September 29, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Regarding bcbulger's question: the FDA decided it was too hard to measure low levels and so let manufacturers “zero out” the trans fats on the label when the level was less than 0.5 g per serving. The "Final Rule on Labeling of Trans Fatty Acids" explains their logic:

"FDA notes that while these recommended levels might be quantifiable by laboratories using GC methodology such as that described in AOAC method 996.06 (Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International, 17th edition, Revision 1, 2002) (Ref. 105), they will pose a problem for laboratories that are set up to quantify trans fatty acids by infrared spectroscopy (IR) methodology because the detection limits of the currently available IR methods are higher than those of the GC methods. More importantly, however, there are no unambiguous methods for confirming the very low levels suggested by the comment [0.1 g]." (http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/LabelClaims/NutrientContentClaims/ucm110179.htm)

Posted by: meander510 | September 30, 2009 1:00 AM | Report abuse

My favorite sneaky labeling is on the plastic bags they sell for cleaning up dog poop. The brand I use says "100% biodegradable" with an asterisk explaining that they are not considered biodegradable in the state of California. Something in the water, I guess.

Posted by: tps12 | October 1, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

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