Get Out of Jail Free cards.

I was making my coffee the other morning (I’m an apostate who drinks instant coffee at home, for various practical reasons, most of which have to do with me being a super-clutz who’s broken more coffee carafes than the coffee carafe industry can possibly keep up with) when I noticed something odd about the coffee label.

Let’s back up for a moment to detail my reasons for drinking coffee. Reasons which, I think, probably apply to the vast majority of coffee-drinkers.

  • I like the taste.
  • I like the caffeine buzz.
  • I like the ritual, and the emotional comfort of it.

You notice what’s not on that list?

Antioxidants.

That’s why it tripped me out to notice the big label on the can.

I mean, it’s been there a while. Sure, I’ve noticed it before. But I never really noticed it until that morning.

Inspired — and in a half-awake undercaffeinated haze — I decided to grab the nearest thing and look for a similar label.

Since we ran out of milk the day before, and since we drink Canadian-style wussy coffee (meaning with milk or cream, plus sugar — black coffee is an abomination unto the Lord and shall not defile this house), the nearest thing was a delicious powdered non-dairy creamer. Which we keep as back-up to avoid a potential coffee crisis.

(Priorities, people. We have them.)

So I grabbed it, and guess what?

CHOLESTEROL FREE, YO.

Which, you know, I suppose is useful information if you have significant dyslipidemia (that is, high blood cholesterol levels) and are sensitive to cholesterol in food (which not all people are, especially not at levels as low as a spoonful of cream or milk in your coffee. Saturated fat is now pretty well-known as the culprit in raising people’s blood cholesterol, and it’s been established that the dietary cholesterol panic of the 80s turned out to be misguided.)

The lactose-free label, well…I take no issue with that. It’s something useful to have, front and centre, if you want to expand your market to include the many folks wishing not to endure a torrent of gaseous mishaps in the course of enjoying their morning brew.

So, quick analysis, what’s up with these largely irrelevant labels on things? Especially things that I wouldn’t really think of as “food” in the first place, and which don’t contribute significantly to your total intake? (I mean, coffee is largely non-nutritive, and a teaspoon or two of fake coffee creamer is pretty damn close to non-nutritive. And, in any case, most people don’t drink more than one or a few cups of the stuff in a day.)

My hypothesis is that, rather than the default cultural attitude toward food and food-like substances being “it’s fine to eat this, and it probably has things in it which are good for me, or, at least, are not actively harmful” we’ve reached a point, collectively, where our default attitude tends to be, “Should I eat/drink/ingest this? Is it poisonous? Am I allowed?

Coffee (and caffeine itself) has become a particularly loaded substance in certain dietary circles. When I was dieting, I also avoided drinking coffee…for no specific reason I’m aware of. Because it was The Thing to Do. Because coffee was vaguely regarded as A Bad, Unnatural Thing.

Part of the package of virtuous self-denial included giving up coffee (and diet soda, and and and…whatever not-particularly-harmful or not-particularly-nutrition-impacting thing someone enjoyed just for the sake of it. Because food had become a tool, and only a tool. Everything consumed required instrumental justification.)

That’s a whole lot of anxiety to carry around. Enough that it’s going to make you second-guess your habitual purchases. Which is not very good for the folks who sell instant coffee.

So, what can the food-industrial-complex use to smuggle its products through the barbed-wire fence of ambivalence erected by its twin sister, the diet-industrial-complex?

A label.

A label that, despite seeming to give you straightforward, useful information about antioxidants and cholesterol, is actually telling you, “Just this once, you’re exempted from guilt. You are granted permission to drink this coffee for Specific, Nutritional Benefits — not for the evil caffeine buzz, not for the comforting emotional associations. Not just because it’s enjoyable. Because it has antioxidants, and it’s cholesterol free.”

In short, it’s a Get Out of Jail Free card. From a jail I believe they helped build.

To you, the guilt-ridden consumer, from the food industry with love.

ETA: Awesome reader Bookwyrm made an equally awesome Get Out of Jail Free card. Read it and weep.

Kaffee klatsch in comments.

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118 Comments

  1. Lori
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    I bought a bag of mini-marshmallows the other day to put in our hot cocoa, and the bag said “fat free.” Now it’s okay to put marshmallows in your cocoa again!

    • Posted March 3, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      THANK GOD.

      I cannot drink hot chocolate without marshmallows. It’s like a crime.

    • clairedammit
      Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

      I bought some oil and vinegar salad dressing that said “0 carbs” on it. Maybe it would be tasty on some fat-free marshmallows!

  2. Emily
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Aha – I knew I couldn’t be the only one annoyed by this. The sugar in our office breakroom has a label informing me that it contains no fat or cholesterol. Whew!

    Also, I’m reminded of when I used to work at a wine shop – at least once a week I’d hear “Well, I don’t like red wine, but I’m trying to develop a taste for it `cause it has antioxidants.” Aaagh. It’s wine, of all things! It is for nothing but enjoyment!

    • ksfeminist
      Posted March 3, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      I had a friend who was trying to learn to like dark chocolate because it had antioxidants. Dude, it’s chocolate. It’s there to enjoy. I love dark chocolate. If you don’t, don’t eat it. If you’re that concerned about antioxidants, drink some green tea (which you LIKE).

  3. Posted March 3, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/
    This guy’s blog isn’t (anywhere close) as entertaining as yours, but he has done some research and reading that is interesting — dense, hard to comprehend, but interesting. I’m enjoying yours much more, but balance, folks, balance.

  4. EmmaL
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    I once saw a package of pork chops labeled “CARB FREE!”

    • Posted March 3, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      That is awesome. That is pure, unadulterated marketing genius.

      You almost have to admire the audacity.

      • Gennivre
        Posted March 4, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        The grocery store where I used to shop liked to put little signs on the shelves indicating which items were “carb-free foods.” They had them all over the shelves that contained . . . salt. I would always think, “Maybe I should just eat salt all day long. It can’t be bad for me, it’s a carb-free food!”

    • Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      My favorite is seeing shark at the fish counter enthusiastically labelled ‘BONELESS!!!’

  5. Kate
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I highly recommend a little manual coffee maker called the Aeropress, first of all, it’s plastic, nothing to break, and second it makes the most delicious coffee EVER! I’m in no way associated with the company that makes these little genius devices, but the coffee is so good, I kind of wish I was.

    • Posted March 3, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      I’ve heard of these. When I move to a larger apartment with more than a postage stamp’s worth of counter space, I may give it a go.

  6. Gorda
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Irrelevant nutritional information is one of my pet peeves. It’s like those Special K commercials going on and on about how Special K is low in fat. Well, DUH! So are Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Frosties, Cocopops and Froot Loops, yet there is no lose-up-to-6-pounds-in-2-weeks Froot Loops Challenge™!

    • Tracy
      Posted March 3, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      Froot Loops challenge? I’m totally down for that.

      • Posted March 3, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        I’ll see your Froot Loops and raise you some Lucky Charms.

        • Shana
          Posted March 15, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

          as long as I get all the charms! Yum!!!

  7. Patsy Nevins
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I have on my bathroom sink a bottle of liquid hand soap which also assures me that it contains antioxidants. I find that SOOO reassuring.

    • Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      For real? SOAP? Has antioxidants?

      Okay, that is hilarious. And ridiculous.

      • Posted March 6, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

        But don’t we get all our nutrients through osmosis? If not, I’ve been going about things wrong…

        :)

  8. Cassi
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    And, in any case, most people don’t drink more than one or a few cups of the stuff in a day .

    Speak for yourself… clearly there are no Cubans in your household. My hubby’s whole family downs gallons of the stuff. They drink it from dawn until just before bed. Nothing like a ristretto nightcap. It’s amazing to behold. Personally I find coffee foul and prefer to mainline diet coke first thing in the morning (I’m diabetic, so regular coke is out of the question, despite my deep love of sugar and my objections to the “diet” label).

    As for labels, my mustard proclaims itself to be “a fat free food!” Which is apparently what the powers that be decided they had to use when ALL foods of that type are the same. That is, so that one mustard doesn’t appear to be selling itself as fat free as opposed to all those OTHER Fat Filled Fatty McFattypants Mustards on the market. The day they put “fat free” on my diet coke is the day I throw in the towel.

    • Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      Haha, good point.

      I think I could comfortably move to Cuba for this reason.

      • Cassi
        Posted March 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        You gotta love any culture where every recipe (including those for breakfast and possibly dessert) starts with “a head of garlic and one half cup of good Spanish olive oil”. God how I love Cuban food.

    • Ladidah
      Posted March 7, 2010 at 2:13 am | Permalink

      OK, this brings back memories of Diet Rite cola in the ’80s. The label said that this diet cola was “sugar free, fat free, sodium free, salt free and saccharin free.” Um, yeah. It’s diet cola sweetened with NutraSweet (aspartame.) Unlike all the other salty diet cola, of course. Or the fatty cola.

  9. DRST
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I remember back when labeling was first mandated, Elaine Boozler used to do a joke in her routine about it, that she was glad for the labels because now when someone asked why she was eating M&Ms she could point to the label and tell them, “Need the zinc!”

    • Carolyn
      Posted March 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

      I am SO doing this!!

  10. Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    LOL As a Canadian, I found your description of how we drink coffee accurate and highly amusing. I had the unfortunate experience of having to pull a mouthful of coffee out of my cup the other morning because it was overfull and I didn’t have room for milk and sugar. VILE! So vile! I spat it into the sink and gratefully added what it so badly needed.

  11. April
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I love it. Candy will point out that it’s fat free, meat has to have a label saying it’s carb free. So, y’know, they’re both good for you in different ways! *rolls eyes*

    My favorite anecdote about coffee–I used to wonder if it was bad for my health, since I enjoy a morning cup (and sometimes in the afternoon) myself. But I’ve read since, that regular coffee drinkers have lower rates of depression and suicide. Correlation isn’t cause and effect, blah blah blah, but still: I love knowing that. Ironically, I have mild depression for which I take Wellbutrin….but whatever.

    The other thing that erased any guilt about coffee: I used to work in a medical clinic for low-income people that included MDs, NDs, and acupuncturists. Everyone except the acupuncture students, down to a person, consumed ridiculous quantities of caffeine. Anybody who said, “I’m going out for coffee…” soon had a list and a handful of dollars. When drug reps came by, they often brought coffee. Especially the Lexapro rep. He’d bring tons of samples of medications (when you work with low-income people, they can really help) and a big thing of Starbucks coffee, every Tuesday. We liked him. LOL

    • April
      Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      BTW: Not trying to say that meat or candy isn’t good for you in specific ways. D’oh!

      Candy is good for making me happy on occasion. There.

    • Posted March 4, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      I have depression. I am now going to think of my coffee consumption as useful self-medicating.

      • April
        Posted March 5, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        It totally is!

      • Posted March 9, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        I find coffee a marvelous self-medication for depression. I get terribly depressed without a cup of coffee in the morning. (‘Course having to do without a shower depresses me too. Is that self-medicating or dependent? If so, I guess I better stop showering to prove I’m not addicted to anything!)

        I think it’s a little scary how we do have a tendency to justify what we eat in terms of how “good for us” it is. I’m sure you know a lot more than I do about the beta carotene/cancer connection and that debacle of an experiment. When I read that, I just decided to eat food and be done with it.

        Oh, and drink coffee. Black as night and sweet as sin in True Java Purity, you heretic, you.

  12. Arwen
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    For awhile, in maybe 2003, I made 5 bucks a shot for filling out these focus research groups forms. As a mother of two who does the grocery shopping (and I wonder if my profile otherwise affected their choices) they sent me every middle-aged-woman-targeted foodstuff about to go on the market they could think of. Yep, I focus grouped, among other things, the major “heart-smart” targeted margarine that now has Omega-3s, and the yogurt that promises that you’ll poo more. I’m avoiding brand names because I’m sure I’m not allowed to mention them.

    I finally quit when my apoplexy at Omega3 milk made me realize focus grouping was bad for my health. My eldest was actually taking Omega 3s at the time, and I knew their “price point” for, what, slightly fishy tasting milk?, was more expensive than milk and a bottle of fish oil capsules for similar dosages. And it was *every* new food they were sending me. Fibre in your yogurt! Probiotics in your hot dogs! Fish in your chocolate! Flax in your cookies! Gah!

    I kept huffing in the comments about the cynicism of marketing food as medicine and using that to jack the price, especially when there’s not a dose in there anyway, and finally I had to give up the surveying…

  13. Posted March 3, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Hot Pockets are an excellent source of calcium!

  14. Posted March 3, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    I have to be slightly condescending for one little moment, and say – you have the cutest little face! Look at that quizzical expression. Adorable!

    Adorable, and – fucking genius. As usual.

  15. Regina T
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    As our Girl Scout troop’s Cookie Manager…..we were instructed to inform everyone we approached that the cookies have ZERO! TRANS! FAT!
    Needless to say, I declined…especially when my 9 yr old asked me “What’s trans fat?” to which I replied “Something they try to scare you with, my Dear. But it sure makes things taste good!” She just shrugged and said “Why not just eat the cookies because you LIKE them?” “Precisely” I added.

    Thank Maude for smart kids!

    • Posted March 4, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      Yay!

    • La
      Posted March 12, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      I love girlscout cookies. Just bought two boxes from the cute little girls outside of Wal-Mart.

  16. Regina T
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    ps…..I love your pearls! You are a true beauty!

  17. sannanina
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    I think the funniest nutritional label I ever came across was on a package of herbal tea – it said it cotained 2kcal per cup. Who would have guessed.

  18. Ducky
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Oh gosh this reminds me! I loooooooove Coke (the drink!)

    But I remember buying a box of it once and on the side it went on and on about how Coke can rehydrate you on those hot summer days.

    I’m not denying that Coke is a liquid with water in it, but I’ve never felt “rehydrated” on a hot summer day from it, in fact, it usually gives me a nasty stomach ache on those days. Don’t lie to me Coke! I would drink you anyway!

    • Posted March 4, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I noticed that too once. And, you know, the fluid in Coke does enter your bloodstream and get filtered by your kidneys just like any other fluid you drink. So, you know, technically, it’s hydrating you.

      But drinking pop always makes me MORE thirsty, not less, at the end of the day. Not sure what’s going on there — whether it’s an effect of the sugar or the caffeine — but I think of pop more like candy, and less like a way to hydrate myself. Unless I am recovering from food poisoning and living on 7-Up :)

      • Lampdevil
        Posted March 5, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        I suspect that it’s the caffiene. I actually limit my Coke and coffee intake, because I don’t want to spend my entire day with a dry mouth and a full bladder. I simply LOVE both of those beverages… but I don’t love the state of the bathrooms at my workplace, egad. The less I see of them, the better.

        • Daniel M.
          Posted March 5, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

          Strangely enough, coke (or pepsi which is cheaper and tastier) does not pose this problem to me – it leaves me with neither dry mouth nor full bladder. I suspect the cause of first one might be drinking a cold beverage on a hot day (that is not a copious amount of water) – since i buy bulk to save, mine is never cooled down ….

          • Lampdevil
            Posted March 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

            Bah! Heathen! Coke is the One True Beverage! (Okay, no it’s not. That’s reserved for Orange Crush. Oh Orange Crush, how I miss you, they’re taking you out of all the soda fountains around here…)

            Everyone’s body responds differently to foods, of course. What’ll set my bladder a-bouncin’ is probably perfectly fine for you. :) I have one cup of coffee per workday, and boggle at folk who can knock back cup after cup… but hey! We’re all built different. Good for them.

          • Posted March 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

            Did you ever have Nehi? The blue stuff? It’s assumed mythical proportions in my head due to childhood memories.

          • Lampdevil
            Posted March 11, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

            I… I have not had this “blue stuff” of which you speak. But now I want to. Oh my.

            Aaah, the things we consume as kids have special places in our hearts…

    • April
      Posted March 5, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      My boyfriend and I go on long bicycle rides to go camping (neither of us own cars), and eventually I always crave soda pop. Ususally Cherry Coke or Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper.

      I almost *never* drink soda other than that. It makes me kinda queasy.

      But on long bike rides? GODSEND. Obviously I might be thirsty, but the sugar and caffeine are definitely part of it. Nice little energy boost when you’ve been riding a bike (loaded with stuff) for thirty miles or so.

      • Posted March 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        I love Cherry Coke so, so much.

        In fact, I just love Coke. I love soda pop in general, like I love candy. In certain situations, it’s awesome. But I tend only to drink it at certain times — like when I’m eating at a restaurant, or eating delivery pizza. Cause it can make me feel sleepy and weirdish. And I don’t like the sticky feeling on my teeth afterward either.

        When I was 12, I used to drink Cherry 7-Up after golfing with my grandma, while she had a beer. It was our ritual.

        • April
          Posted March 7, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

          Did you ever put skittles in 7-up? I remember doing that a lot in Girl Scouts for some reason.

          On a similar note, I made Skittles vodka for my birthday party…skittles (separated by color) dissolve in vodka over night, and then you filter the stuff (which is messy and takes forever!). The resultant syrup is mixed with club soda or ginger ale or something resembling 7-up. It tastes exactly like you would expect it to–like skittles…and vodka. LOL

          They stopped putting gelatin in Skittles just within the last year. All my vegetarian and vegan friends did a happy dance. I hadn’t eaten skittles in over five years, and they were always my favorite candy!!

  19. Bookwyrm
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    I’m so disappointed.

    Seeing the title in my feed widget, I thought you were going to give us a “Get out of jail free” card.

    *sigh*

    I hope you don’t mind, but I made my own.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/29548647@N00/4406309298/

    • deeleigh
      Posted March 4, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Holy fuck. That is awesome.

    • Posted March 4, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      That is so kick-ass. Thank you!

      I hope you don’t mind, but I am totally adding this to the post!

      • Bookwyrm
        Posted March 4, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        Wow; I’m famous!
        (and officially awesome. It says so on the Internet!)

        Thank you!

        (Of course I don’t mind. I’m significantly thrilled.) :-)

    • KellyK
      Posted March 4, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      That is awesome, Bookwyrm. You rock. It’s now my desktop background–I hope that’s okay.

    • April
      Posted March 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      I’m tempted to print these out and hand them to people….LOL

  20. Sabayon
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    The most horrific one I ever found was on Albertson’s brand baking soda which declares in huge letters that it has ZERO GRAMS TRANS FAT. Not only is this terrifying from the perspective of people not having a healthy relationship with food, but is Science education really so bad in this country that we think that someone might have slipped some trans fat into something that’s only ingredient is sodium bicarbonate. Also how can anyone possibly worry about the fat content of something that you add 1 teaspoon of to 12 muffins. How many muffins would you have to each before it mattered?

  21. Posted March 4, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    As I sit here drinking my black, black (as black as the twisted remains of my human heart) coffee from free trade organic beans I ground myself two minutes before I started the coffee maker (one day I may get myself a French Press, when my trusty mechanical friend wears out because I’m a total, total coffee snob), I rejoice in the fact that the coffee bag says not one word concerning antioxidants or cholesterol or kcals or carbs or omega-3. It just says where the beans were grown and that the people growing them were treated like human beings. My food guilt doesn’t stem from whether or not there are special magical nutrients in them or whether eating a single serving will doom me to a foreshortened life of misery and contempt. I just want to eat stuff that makes me feel good and know the people who produced it weren’t working in dangerous conditions, possibly involving slavery.

    I’m also glad I don’t read Russian, because I recently was gifted with a box of delicious, delicious dark chocolate covered dried apricots and if I’d been able to read something about how they were rich in antioxidants or a great natural source of fiber so I can poo, it would have just sucked all the fun out of eating them.

    • Cassi
      Posted March 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Oh man, where have chocolate dipped dried apricots been all my life? Do I need a Russian friend? Do I need to go to Russia? Wait…

      I have dried apricots, I have dark chocolate, I own a stove…

      I am the happiest woman on earth right now.

    • Kate
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

      Twistie,

      I mentioned this coffee maker up above, but I’m mentioning it again, with the disclaimer that I have nothing to do with the company that makes it, get an AeroPress coffee maker, it makes completely awesome coffee.

      http://www.amazon.com/AeroPress-Coffee-and-Espresso-Maker/dp/B000GXZ2GS

  22. Posted March 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Ahhh coffee, nectar of the Gods, and I don’t care how many antioxidants it has in it.

    “…black coffee is an abomination unto the Lord and shall not defile this house”

    ROFLMAO–and that is precisely how hubby and I feel about black coffee!

  23. Cathy
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Coffee with milk and sugar is the only way to go. Black coffee’s so not for me. Cold-brewed coffee is the best though. I use this recipe: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/dining/276drex.html but double it. The benefits are: (i) it tastes awesome; (ii) you always have some in the fridge ready to go (I make it before I go to sleep and it’s done when I wake up in the morning); and (iii) ICED COFFEE! Right there! You don’t even have to do anything. Well, except to add milk and sugar. Man, I’m going to have some now.

    • Posted March 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Very nice. I’m going to have to try this.

    • April
      Posted March 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Cold-brewed coffee is THE AWESOME. It’s also got more caffeine than normal brewed, just to warn you.

      When I worked in an office downtown, there was a cafe a few blocks away that had cold-brewed coffee all summer. They kept in in a concentrate. I used to have them dilute it with soymilk instead of water. I was so hooked on those for a while.

  24. Marnie
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I did not know that about dietary cholesterol! And I think of myself as a pretty smart cookie.

    My favourite was always the CHOLESTEROL FREE hype on things that couldn’t possibly have cholesterol in them, unless someone was adding it for some reason. Like, orange juice and frozen pees!

  25. Daniel M.
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Not that it is important , but enjoyed the fun article!

    A) This reminds me of Brawndo the Thirst Mutilator from Idiocracy
    slogan: Brawndo’s got what [cows,babies,plants …] crave! It’s got electrolytes!

    B) just today at the engineering department cafeteria, where besides free tea, they have magazines, i read in the humorous part of New Scientist, how some “turkish delight” candy had a wrapper saying 60% of fat less , and always been so. It was chocolate coated and inspection of packet discovered that apparently the comparison was wresp to chocolate bars , as due to the coating it has more fat than other turkish deligt type candies.
    So what they then thought about was whether chocolate is to be the new fat comparison standard – pork chops could then claim 20% less fat for example, or to go a step further, use fat itself – then apparently bacon has 50% less fat… I was LOLing in the cafeteria, now when i returned it is this…

    C) How dare you insult black coffee! :D
    I recognise both – black is a morning pickup when needed.
    (another interesting point i have noticed recently although you will likely go ‘Duh!” is that if i drink about 0.6 l of water (two mugs) or else in the morning, i am much less sleepy even if i slept little)
    and coffee-powdermilk, and load of sugar mixture to ressurect me at night (guess what i drink all day :D costing nothing [they have sugar too!])

    • Posted March 4, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      C) How dare you insult black coffee! :D

      I’m Canadian. It’s what we do best.

      IT’S GOT ELECTROLYTES. IT’S GOT WHAT PLANTS CRAVE.

      • Daniel M.
        Posted March 4, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

        Hmm, so are canadians best at insulting or at black coffee?
        (hmm, maybe both – i can imagine the temper they would have if they made best black coffee and drank it ….)

        • Posted March 5, 2010 at 9:05 am | Permalink

          Definitely insulting. We suck at black coffee.

          • Daniel M.
            Posted March 5, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

            And now for something completely different:
            It occured to me on way home – since everyone talks about obesity epidemic etc, and claim it is a disease – it should be possible to take sick days on that
            It would be sooo funny, at the end of the year taking remaining paid sick days off as holiday, with ‘chronic obesity’ given as a reason …

          • Posted March 5, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

            I’m calling in fat to work on Monday.

          • La
            Posted March 12, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

            That one made me laugh out loud at my desk. I could do that myself!

  26. aquana
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    *is drinking black coffee right now… whoops!* Awesome article as usual. This has caught my attention:

    “Part of the package of virtuous self-denial included giving up coffee (and diet soda, and and and…whatever not-particularly-harmful or not-particularly-nutrition-impacting thing someone enjoyed just for the sake of it. ”

    I love love love Pepsi Max – I wasn’t allowed to drink soda when I was a little girl, so diet cola (in all forms) has become one of my guilty pleasures. “Guilty” pleasures, mind – because guilt is exactly what I feel when I drink it, since it’s supposed to be “bad for you”. Interesting.

  27. Posted March 5, 2010 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    Here in Germany, during the olympics, there was a brand of non-alcoholic beer being advertised as a sports drink. Apparently they run the ads during non-olympic sports, too. Why? Because it’s isotonic. *facepalm*

    • Posted March 5, 2010 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Wait, what? It’s isotonic?

      That is…that is possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

      • Posted March 6, 2010 at 3:40 am | Permalink

        Nice to know that my instincts about the ads are backed up by a professional :D

        It’s very surreal to see… athletes doing their thing and then drinking …. beer. non-alcoholic beer, but beer.

        Here’s a non-winter sport ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2mCRgSLZes

        Voiceover translation, quick and dirty:
        “100% performance. 100% regeneration. Isotonic, vitamin-rich, calorie-reduced. Erdinger Alcohol-free.”

        • Posted March 6, 2010 at 4:38 am | Permalink

          So, what they’re trying to say is…it doesn’t add or remove salts from your body?

          Is this for Olympic athletes without kidneys? Because I am so not understanding the benefit here.

          • Daniel M.
            Posted March 6, 2010 at 7:37 am | Permalink

            I kind of am, since i had appendicitis when small – apparently isotonic stuffs have the same concentrations as physiologic fluid (the stuff that infusions contain) because sweating in excess (or heavy vomiting and diarrhea in my case…) can deplete those and bad stuff happens if you replace only with water.

            However AFAIK either mineral water, or a coffee spoon of salt per large bottle (2l) of anything can pretty much do the same job…

  28. badhedgehog
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Drinking coffee now! (hot and black)

    I reckon that as well as a get out of jail free card, the label is like a holy symbol or a magical rune. It promises quasi-magical health-giving properties on the part of the product. This is the one that is Good For You. This is the one that Prevents Cancer. This is the one that has been blessed. You can be healthy by association with this product.

  29. purpleshoes
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    I once got into a fight with someone about how boiled brown rice (with milk and brown sugar) couldn’t be as healthy as cheerios because cheerios had a “heart healthy” label. ::facepalm:: I mean, look, no one has a responsibility to choose one or the other or leftover guacamole or whatever else for breakfast, but I thought it was funny/distressing that now “heart-healthy” labels are practically the Voice of God about what it’s safe to eat, and you eat anything unlabeled at your very peril.

    • Lampdevil
      Posted March 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      Heck, those “heart healthy” labels? Those “Health Check” checkmarks? Companies essentially pay to get evaluated, and the standards imposed are kinda “eeeehn” overall when it comes to how genuinely “good” something may be for you. Non-marked products may be just as beneficial! (I totally saw an episode of Marketplace about this. I may not be stating matters entirely accurately, as much time has elapsed, and I apologize.)

      • purpleshoes
        Posted March 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        I actually looked up the heart-healthy labeling standards for cheerios in the course of the conversation, and leaving aside whether these factors should define our breakfasts, all they are are: 1) contains whole grains 2) not high in fat 3) contains fiber.

        Yeah, that’s a pretty good description of every cooked grain ever, at least until I put butter on it.

    • aquana
      Posted March 6, 2010 at 1:41 am | Permalink

      Okay, that’s just hilarious.

  30. Leslie
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I noticed this morning that my roommate’s box of Rice Chex is labeled as Gluten Free. This is obviously very useful information for someone with celiac disease, but I wonder if the way it’s presented (big letters on the front of the box, ad copy on the back about what gluten is – but no mention of wheat allergies or celiac or any negative effects it has on the body! – and general text about how wholesome and delicious Rice Chex are) is an attempt to draw in more generally health-conscious, non-celiac people? Like, “If it brags about being gluten-free, gluten must be bad, and this product must therefore be good!” I have stumbled upon a few blogs etc. of people who are not celiac and are still trying to cut down on the gluten in their diets. I don’t know about the science behind that, but I find the possible “badding” of gluten an interesting corollary to recent increased awareness of celiac disease.

    • Posted March 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      That’s an interesting question.

      I’m thrilled, myself, about Chex being gluten-free. But it is interesting that they don’t mention celiac/gluten intolerance on the package. I’d have to see it myself, though, and I haven’t because I don’t think we have Chex in my area.

      • Carolyn
        Posted March 8, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

        Chex actually had a decrease in sales due to this prominent display of the Gluten Free information. People assume that gluten free means tasteless, gritty, garbage. (Can’t blame them for that one)

        Honestly, I am so tickled that GF chex is so clearly labeled. It makes my job of eating a gluten free breakfast that much easier.

        Also, if you look at the side of the box, near the bottom, you’ll notice a little blurb about being endorsed by the Celiac Foundation.

  31. Another Michelle
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Look what I found in my pantry:

    “BARLEY is low sodium. Diets low in sodium
    MAY REDUCE THE RISK
    OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE.”

    And, yes, my package of sugar informs me that it is naturally fat-free and only 15 calories per teaspoon.

    Has health-based food marketing gotten sillier in the last couple of years, or am I just more aware of it?

    • Posted March 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Has health-based food marketing gotten sillier in the last couple of years

      I think it has. It would take a lot of convincing to make me think otherwise. I think it’s reached a fever-pitch of sheer ridiculousness.

      • Ashley
        Posted March 6, 2010 at 2:48 am | Permalink

        I do think it’s got sillier in recently. Tonight I saw a TV commercial for Froot Loops that was obviously aimed at *children* touting the benefits of fiber and bragging about the fact that Froot Loops now has 3 grams per serving. The kids in the ad were playing doctor and one explained to another that you need fiber to keep your tummy healthy. This bothers me for at least two reasons, (1) that silly health advertising has reached the kids market and (2) isn’t three grams a ridiculously low amount of fiber to be bragging your cereal has? While I’m on this rant, I will also add that not only does it drive me crazy when people attribute health qualities to foods that they don’t have/aren’t releavant, but it also makes me crazy when people attribute negative health outcomes with food products. Diet coke/preservatives/artifical food colorings/etc. cause cancer and the like. No. That’s ridiculous.

        • Carolyn
          Posted March 8, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

          @ Ashley

          Diet coke/preservatives/artifical food colorings/etc. cause cancer and the like. No. That’s ridiculous.

          I’m with you for the most part on this one except when it comes to Aspartame in Diet Coke. I’m including a link below which has numerous links to articles, studies, and FDA information regarding the poisonous nature of aspartame.

          http://www.321recipes.com/aspartame.html

        • Gorda
          Posted March 10, 2010 at 7:30 am | Permalink

          When I was eight, my best friend overheard her mum talk about how foodstuffs with E’s in them (meaning food additives, like E110, E212, etc.) gave you cancer. She relayed this information to the rest of the class and, sure enough, we all took it to mean foods with ‘E’ in their name. Suddenly, foods like chEEse, lEttuce, lEEks, spinach and milk (which have Es in Spanish) were carcinogenic and should be avoided at all costs and OMG we were all going to die! For some reason this made perfect sense to us, which I now see as an example of how used we are (and were, even in the 1990s) to the arbitrary way in which “healthy” and “unhealthy” labels are assigned to certain foods and/or ways of eating.

          So yeah, health-based food marketing and should NOT be aimed at kids.

  32. Posted March 6, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I think I can top this. Even though I have you bookmarked, a friend directed me to this entry (which I hadn’t read yet) because I had rejoiced upon finding that my PACK OF BACON read: “0 carbs! 0 trans fats!” OMG, Bacon is good for you now!

  33. Posted March 6, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised that we don’t see things like the following on a bottle of water (but wait, it’s probably coming):

    Fat Free
    Cholesteral Free
    Zero Calories
    Zero Carbs
    Sugar Free

    etc. etc. etc.

    • aquana
      Posted March 6, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I’ve seen low-calorie water. Actually, it was low-calorie flavoured water, but still… gah.

      • sannanina
        Posted March 9, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink

        I have seen a bottle of water labeled as “vegan” a few days ago. I had to laugh so hard… You tell me your water doesn’t contain animal products? Awsome, I would have never guessed!

  34. Alana Skye
    Posted March 7, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I was vegan for five years and last year reverted to vegetarianism. The only thing that stayed the same was that I still drink coffee black. Coffee with milk in tastes odd to me now. With regard to funny adverts – a comedy duo called Mitchell and Webb beautifully spoofed adverts with this gem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9fFOelpE_8 . Also I love Michelle’s face in the Cholesterol Free Creamer picture, it’s the real-life equivalent of o_O

  35. Jayn
    Posted March 9, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I noticed recently just how saturated our culture is with food messages, and it’s kind of scary. My lightbulb moment came when I was buying yogurt and noticed I was instinctively going for the low-calorie stuff.

    I’m thin. Really thin. It-takes-active-effort-to-gain-weight thin. Low cal foods probably aren’t the best for me.

    This whole ‘you should eat this, not that’ culture frightens me, because it’s about generalities. We’re not taught how to choose foods for ourselves, really, so we don’t know how to decide what’s best for us–just what society thinks is ‘best’. I felt guilty buying chocolate covered granola bars for a while, because of this. Eventually I got over it, and now I buy them partly as a ‘f*** you’ to that aspect of our culture.

    (For fun, I tried the high protein ones. Yuck)

    • Posted March 9, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      What gets me is the “whatever you do, it isn’t good enough” marketing, message, guilt trip whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

      Be it eating or exercise.
      I.E.:

      Eating-too much of the “wrong stuff” (i.e. the stuff that makes food taste good, basically –sugar, salt and fat). Exercise–not enough, not ever enough, no matter what you do and how much you do it. Drives me crazy.

  36. Gorda
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Sitting on my pantry right now is a box of ready-made chicken stock whose label reads: “No fat” (nothing unusual here, we are used to naturally-non-fatty foods touting their non-fattiness) and “NO ENERGY VALUE”. That’s a Get Out of Jail Free card if I’ve ever seen one! You can eat this and obtain no energy whatsoever, which of course makes total sense because who wants to get energy out of food anyway? *major headdesk* Generalized ideas about health, healthy eating and normal eating are becoming so warped what suddenly it’s legitimate for a food company to advertise that their product does not perform its main function, i. e. being fuel for our bodies. I wonder what will happen to adjectives like “nutritious” and “nourishing” now that we apparently like our food non-nutritious and as little nourishing as possible.

    • Sarah
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Oh, but food isn’t meant to nourish your body by providing energy. They nourish your blackened, sinful soul by providing penitential fiber and minerals.

      • deeleigh
        Posted March 11, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        Oh, thanks. I almost spit coffee all over my monitor.

  37. Posted March 12, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I guess your point is about misleading labels, and that we should eat food for what it is not for what the label tells us. But I have to defend coffee and caffeine a little. It HAS anti-oxidants, and it can be healthy (if you don’t have blood pressure, ulcers, or pregnant). In fact, 4 cups a days lowers the risk of diabetes. I’m not saying that so that people start drinking coffee to ward off diabetes–of course not. I’m saying that because some people practice so much self-restraint by avoiding coffee and denying themselves its pleasure for not reason!
    There’s a blog all about coffee (for coffee lovers) and I actually was a guest and wrote about the health benefits of coffee in moderation. CHeck it out: http://dailyshotofcoffee.com/

    And I absolutely hate those “0 carb” “0 tran fat” claims… all super misleading!

  38. Posted March 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    My doctor actually told me that I shouldn’t eat “white” food! What kind of horseshit is that, I ask you?

  39. Posted March 12, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    i just went to the supermarket and was curious about the low fat water stuff, there was actually a water saying on the label “no fat and sugar”, it was normal bottled sparkling water, the kind most people here in germany have been drinking for decades *headdesk*. and since my childhood it has been labeled with a listing of the contained minerals (because mostly its water from some healthy spring, which is naturally sparkling), wich really is kind of helpful for people who have to watch out for these things, but it never ever before statet “no kalories” or any such ridiculous stuff.

    ps: sorry but i quite seldom write in english, so my comment might read itself a bit odd

  40. Other Kate
    Posted March 13, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Gosh you’re pretty, especially so for someone who hasn’t had her coffee yet!

    Not to derail the thread, but could you offer a few words on how concerned one should be about bisphenol A in cans?

    • Posted March 14, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Thanks :)

      And, honestly, on the BPA front…I have no idea. I’d have to do some research on it to find credible sources, and I’m not up for it right now. Anyone who has any relevant links is free to jump in.

  41. Linda
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    My husband’s automatic coffee maker broke, so when we were shopping for a new one our friend said, “get a french press, it makes coffee that’s less bitter,” and he loved that, but then it got broke too, and in desperation he simply took the filter holder from the first coffee maker, put a paper filter in it, put some freshly ground beans in it, set it over his cup, and poured boiling water over it. We were both smacking our foreheads, it was so simple and *cheap*.

    • Posted March 16, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      This is awesome. You can bet I will probably try this soon.

  42. Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    When I do my groceries, I make sure to check the label because I have a lot of things to avoid. Yep, it pays to check the label. Low-calorie, cholesterol-free, no Aspartame, no trans fatty acids, less salt….ugghh the list is endless!

    • Posted March 24, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      I really only check for trans fats. Well, and aspartame cause I hate the taste.

  43. Posted March 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I was shocked myself recently when buying a particular soda I rarely get. It’s a special treat because only one place I ever go near sells the stuff these days.

    Someone figured out that Cherry 7-Up has Vitamin E in it, and decided to do the ‘it has antioxidants’ advertising on the can.

    Since when is soda health food?

  44. Erin
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m eating a Baby Ruth. it has 4 grams protein. but it’s mainly delicious. maybe they should just stick with that on the label instead of the protein advert.

  45. superclutz
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    please stay out of my garbage. lol

    too funny.

  46. HB
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    You may appreciate this: http://www.xkcd.com/641/

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