Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Reading the Labels

Trying to be vigilant about eating whole grains whose nutrition hasn't been refined and processed away can require a lot of efforts some days.

First off, much of what manufacturers use as marketing hooks on their packaging is incomplete or misleading. Whether it be greenwashing of supposedly eco-friendly products or "grainwashing" of goods that aren't quite what's being presented, truth in advertising isn't quite being followed.

So shoppers have to go beyond the snazzy adjectives on the front and dig down into the list of ingredients. But, I don't normally grocery shop with a magnifying glass that allows me to turn the illegible font size on many packages into something a normal person can read. And I also don't appreciate gimmicks like bizarre serving sizes that allow your calorie-laden product to seem like a dieter's dream. Who eats 1/2 a cup of ice cream? Give me the count for a half-gallon.

Why do we make it so hard for people to make good decisions? What do we have to hide? I get that fast food restaurants don't want government requiring them to share nutritional information because of the potential cost to do so and a fundamental abhorrence of regulation. But their intentions would seem a bit more noble if some of their products weren't so suspect.

Instead of spending time and energy on blocking transparency, why not use it to make better things whose quality and contents can be proudly (and truthfully) proclaimed?

And what's good for grocers is good for any business. Companies and associations should think about bundling information so that it makes it easy for consumers and members to make informed choices. The less time I have to spend deciding means the more time I can spend using your actual product or service ... where the real value is.

So take a look at your own offerings and the information you're providing. I guarantee it can be done better. And if you have something to hide, your problem runs much deeper.

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