We all understand our government is here to help us. It is here to protect us. It is here to save us from ourselves. We all understand that.
In what must have seemed like a good idea at the time, some government agency decided all food must be labeled. This, on the face of it, is a good idea. “Knowledge is power.” “It’s always better to know than not to know.” “Ignorance is bliss.” Actually, I just threw that last one in there to see if you were paying attention. I could spout mottos like that all day. Unfortunately, when the government went ahead and put labels on food packages they had two priorities that were at odds with actually, you know, delivering any useful data. The first priority was apparently to use the smallest print available. This made the labels almost unreadable. The second priority was to use information that lots of people couldn’t understand. This made the labels almost dangerous.
I have an acquaintance who is, shall we say, a little stout. Portly. Somewhat overweight. Pudgy. He insisted he was eating very few calories and could not grasp why he continued to gain weight. When many people complain of a problem, they just want someone to listen to them and say, “Oh you poor thing.” They aren’t really seeking advice. Just sympathy. This, more’s the pity, is not what I hear. When someone talks to me about something that is bothering them, my usual response is to outline five or six ways to address the problem, organize the possible solutions alphabetically, realign the solutions from most likely to work to least likely to work, devise a schedule for implementing my ideas, and then present my findings to the person with the problem. Of course, by that time, the person with the problem has moved on to find someone who can just say, “Oh you poor thing.”
But my acquaintance didn’t move fast enough so he was stuck with my trying to “help” him. I suggested we go over the info on a random food label to see if we could discover the root of his issue. After finding magnifying glasses so we could read the label, it was very quick work to figure out why this guy was adding avoirdupois. When he read that an item supplied two per cent of his daily ration of fat, he took that to mean the item consisted of two per cent fat. So essentially, he was living on Reese’s cups and lard. The breakfast of champions.
As though putting such tiny, potentially misleading numbers on a can weren’t helpful enough, the government decided to branch out into further service to its citizens. It decided to get into the expiration date business. Again…seems like a great idea although just last night I ate some cheese that had a November 2017 expiration date on it. No kidding. Didn’t hurt me at all. The nausea and vomiting should end any minute now.
So, sure, maybe a sane person would appreciate an expiration date on cheese. Maybe a sane person would notice the cheese was not the color it was when it left the store. Maybe a sane person would consider the color of this cheese was not even a color cheese normally comes in. Maybe a sane person would realize that cheese does not, in its natural state, sprout hair. Just sayin’.
But, against all my frugal upbringing and determination not to add to the landfills, I found myself drinking bottled water the other day. Water. H2O. What runs out of your faucet unless your pipes are frozen. And yes, right there on this bottle of what comes out of your faucet was an expiration date. There was, small mercies, no calorie count of the water. But, the government being the government, did include a warning not to put the cap in your mouth and try to swallow it.
In what must have been a soon-to-be-corrected oversight, the caloric breakdown of the cap was not given.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.