Warning: FDA Food Labeling "Inconclusive"

If you really want to know how committed I am to replacing the current "health" paradigm with a more rational model focused on treating the real causes of problems, and not the symptoms, you'll find the term "FDA" comes up more than 1,100 times in articles published this year on my Web site. Many of those references refer to cautionary stories about the latest problem or conflict involving food or drug safety, common sense and the federal government.

With the FDA's latest move to loosen restrictions on food labeling, however, be prepared for even more problems and mixed messages down the road that may affect your health. The big concern: Consumers will be exposed to claims not backed entirely by research.

The change will help consumers make informed choices at the supermarket as nutritional science unfolds, FDA claims. However, some experts believe the government backed down due to strong lobbying from the food industry.

In the past, only health claims for which there was "significant scientific agreement" could make their way onto food packaging: ones linking calcium to a reduced risk for osteoporosis, for example, or fiber to a reduced risk for cancer. Such claims receive a grade of "A" by the government. Now "B," "C" and "D" claims, for which there are limited data and inconclusive evidence, will start appearing.

A startling fact: The American food industry produces 3,900 calories a day for every man, woman, and child in the country, according to a New York University professor, far more than most people could or should ever eat. It's industry's job to sell those calories, she added, with your health taking a back seat.

Boston Globe September 7, 2004

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