(Photo by Tom Egelhoff)
(Photo by Tom Egelhoff)

Have you ever paid attention to one of those nutrition labels? You know, the one that gives you all the calories, and salt, and other useful info?

Products also often have listed ingredients like “yellow dye #5” or “poly-something or other.”

I can make a pretty accurate guess at what yellow dye # 5 is but some of the “poly…” names leave me scratching my head.

What Might Not Be Listed

Next time you pick one of those bright red fruit juices, gelatin's, or candy you might see an ingredient called “cochineal extract.”

What on earth could that possibly be? Sound innocent enough right? At least it’s not poly-something.

Well, as it turns out there is a female beetle in South and Central America called the “Dactylopius Coccus.” You crush this beetle and boil it in ammonia and you get this really cool red color to use in food.

OMG, this can’t be legal or at best it must be unregulated. Surely the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) would put a stop to something so disgusting.

Not only is it FDA approved there are even directives on what’s allowable.

I suppose listing “crushed beetles boiled in ammonia” as an ingredient could be bad for sales. Gives new meaning to “Beetlejuice.”

Just as an FYI, Starbucks stopped using “cochineal extract” in 2012. No more red coffee I guess.

Serving Size? Are You Kidding Me?

Whoever decides the serving size on some products much be really, really, really skinny. Talk about “caloric inequality.” There is no way that some of the listings could possibly be a “single serving.”

Therein lies two conflicting pieces of information:

  • A “serving size” is what the FDA recommends of a particular food.
  • A “portion size” is what you decide is your recommendation for a particular food.

Judging by the obesity numbers in the US, portions are winning out big time. There is no way a half-gallon of ice cream is 16 servings.

Here Are Some Helpful Guidelines for Portion Control.

If you are unable to adhere to the recommended serving size then the following could help with portion control.

  • 1 teaspoon of margarine is the size of one dice
  • 3 ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards
  • 1 cup of pasta is the size of a baseball
  • 1½ ounces of cheese is the size of four stacked dice
  • ½ cup of fresh fruit is the size of a tennis ball
  • Eat from a plate, not a package, so you know how much you eat.
  • Use smaller dishes, such as a lunch plate for your dinner, so less looks like more.

Some Final Thoughts

Does anyone even bother with nutrition labels anymore? Do we pay any attention at all? I’m sure everyone at the Co-op does, but at Walmart?

Or are we jaded with too much government regulations on everything we touch, see, smell, hear or taste?

Do we pick the parts of the label we like? Ice Cream, no trans fat, into the cart it goes. Low-fat weenies yum yum. Jar of Mayo, no carbs – gotta have it.

Got any red colored food on your shopping list?

Comments below.

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