Since 2002, you may have noticed, food manufacturers have been rolling out a never-ending stream of claims about the nutritiousness and health benefits of their foods. It fights cancer! It helps prevent heart disease! It's part of a healthy diet!
These claims are always followed by caveats that the science supporting the claim is thin, unverified or otherwise suspect. But the Food and Drug Administration has allowed these "qualified health claims" on packaging since 2002.
Now, the Bush FDA, on its way out the door, issued a guidance that would extend the use of this labeling practice, despite indications that these labels only mislead consumers.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has objected, and is urging President-elect Barack Obama (President Obama in a few hours...) to rescind the order from the FDA commissioner, since it holds no legal weight, and only guides the agency's actions in the absence of other guidance.
The episode is yet another reminder that consumers should not rely on labels particularly the statements that scream loudest. The best advice we've heard is Michael Pollan's: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
Another mantra to recite: If it has no label, it's probably better. After all, fruit and vegetables typically don't have to advertise how healthy they are. They just are.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.