You are what you eat, the saying goes. This month, we’re all learning to be a bit more careful about that.
As The Bold Italic noted earlier this month, Subway will be removing the yoga mat chemical, azodicarbonamide, from its bread. It turns out Subway wasn't the only one using the additive. Just yesterday, a new report from the Environmental Working Group included a list of more than 500 products from 130 brands lining grocery store shelves around the country, chock full of the same azodicarbonamide that just caused Subway such a stir. Looking to avoid it? Go to your local Safeway and make a point not to pick up, among other things, Artichoke Basille's Pizza Co.’s Margherita pizza, Fiber One’s hamburger buns, Sara Lee’s Deluxe Cinnamon Raisin Bagels, or any of Pillsbury’s Toaster Strudel pastries.
This last one hit me especially hard; I used to eat toaster strudels almost daily as a kid. It’s a far cry from the kind of eating habits I have today, living and working in a foodcentric, health-obsessed city like San Francisco, where words like “organic” and “local” and “cold-pressed” are part of the everyday lexicon and living active, healthy lifestyles are the norm.
San Franciscans are no doubt interested by the latest announcement from the FDA, who just yesterday proposed major changes to the ubiquitous nutrition facts label. These changes include a larger, more prominent calorie count; a shift to the left for the percent daily values, making them easier to read; a change in how serving sizes are calculated and displayed; and a row for added sugars, which has been blamed for the rise in American obesity.
The New York Times reports that the FDA proposal will be open to public comment for 90 days and will take months more for any official switch to be made final. In addition, the FDA has conceded two years to the food industry for the changes to be made, allowing companies to carry them out gradually.
These are the first major changes proposed in the two decades since the federal government first started requiring them in the early 1990s – around the same time I was inhaling blueberry toaster strudels every day before school. The setup for the first iteration of nutrition labels was based on information on American eating habits from the 1970s and 1980s, before average portion sizes skyrocketed and the obesity epidemic set in. The new nutrition label more accurately represents American eating habits today.
We’ll have to wait to see how much theses changes – both as the consumer crackdown on dangerous chemical additives in seemingly innocent food products and the proposed changes to the nutrition facts label – will effect standard health levels and food company practices. When trans fats were added to the nutrition label, companies began using less of them, and hopefully the same will go for added sugars. Either way, I’m putting my toaster strudel days behind me; if I am what I eat, I’d like to be less yoga mat-y, less sugary, and much more sustainable.
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