Hippocrates said it first (“let food be thy medicine…”), and today no one would argue against the fact that what we put in our mouths plays a key role in the quest to promote health and well-being. So in a country where obesity is now considered pandemic and military leaders assert that our lack of fitness poses a threat to national security, how could it be a bad idea to discuss – and ultimately implement – an at-a-glance label like the one proposed by Mark Bittman that assesses a food’s or a beverage’s overall benefit?
Quite simply, we should know what we’re buying – not just from the mouth of the person who’s trying to sell the product, but from the viewpoint of someone with our long-term health and well-being in mind. That “protein shake” loudly boasting on the front label about 10 grams of protein and five grams of fiber also happens to deliver (if you read the back label) 18 grams of sugar, and this is just a small example of why a food grading system makes as much sense for consumer-decision making as movie ratings do.
Food and beverage makers have established a 100-year lead over such a tactic, and we shouldn’t have to question their ability to adjust and adapt, bolstered by considerable resources and experience. What they should not be permitted to do is wield undue influence over a national discussion about how to promote health and wellness. We take about 15 seconds to make a purchase decision in the supermarket, and a vastly-simplified notifier should be in place to match that behavior.
Industry voices will continue to tell us that this is a matter of individual responsibility, and that nothing less than democracy, and our collective future is at stake in this discussion. If we’re smart, we won’t be buying it.