It’s titled “The Smoke and Mirrors of Food Labeling,” but a more appropriate headline for an article in The New York Times Saturday business section would have been “You Are Too Stupid To Feed Yourself.” The article contends that nutrition labeling on packaged food “can confuse even the most astute calorie counter.” How so? Apparently, the labels often force consumers to do basic math.
You see, a package of noodles lists 190 calories per serving, “but few consumers notice that each package actually contains two servings.” How does the Times establish that “few consumers” notice that? It doesn’t. Not a single consumer is quoted.
Instead, the Times seems content to quote “nutritionists and consumer groups” — i.e., food scolds like Marion Nestle and Bonnie Liebman of the misnamed Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). “Consumer groups,” the Times writes just before getting to Nestle and Liebman, want the “F.D.A. to strengthen its labeling laws … instead of making consumers do the math.” So people can’t multiply 190 calories times two servings, but we expect them to understand the difference between polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat?
Unfortunately, the Times seems to have bought into CSPI’s blame-industry-first mantra, writing:
[Kraft] said in July that it would trim its serving sizes, as part of the company’s effort to address obesity. But the company has been slow to carry out the changes.
The article doesn’t provide any reason to believe that Kraft has been “slow” — which is especially damning since the Times itself reported in July: “Kraft said that it hoped many of its programs would go into effect next year, and that it would take three or four years to complete.”