Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

What do 200 calories look like?

Posted by metaphorical on 23 January 2007

Wisegeek has a sobering page for anyone who cares about what they eat or how much they weigh. It shows pictures of 90 foods that are 200 calories, giving their weights in grams and ounces.


One-half of a rather plain-looking Jack In The Box cheeseburger, just about two and a half ounces, makes the list. So does bacon, at a measly 34 g (1.2 oz).

It takes a whopping 3 lbs of celery to get to 200 calories, or a pound and half of either broccoli or carrots. But the news isn’t all good for vegetarians.

Peanut butter weighs in at exactly the same, um, weight, as bacon—1.2 oz, about a single finger-scoop. If you order french fries instead of that half-burger, you only get about two and a half ounces of them for your 200 calories.

The news is worst of all for the sweet-toothed. Less than a single glazed donut tips the scale; so does just 8 chocolate kisses.

Sites like these are important, if only because your government won’t help you, at least not when it comes to food labeling. In fact, in this case the libertarians may be right about government. By overseeing labeling poorly, we’re worse off then if it didn’t exercise any oversight at all.

On 12 January 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a modification to the definition of the term “lean.” The motive, as explained by petitioner and noted health-food manufacturer Nestle Prepared Foods Co., isn’t crazy—it was to provide for prepared foods or, in agency parlance, “mixed dishes not measurable with a cup”.

According to foodproductiondaily-usa.com,

Under the final rule published last week, manufacturers of goods such as burritos, pizza rolls, egg rolls, and sandwiches will be able to use the well-recognized claim to appeal to health-conscious consumers.

The final rule allows for the nutrient content claim to be used on products that have less than 8 g total fat, 3.5 g or less saturated fat, and less than 80 mg cholesterol per reference amount customarily consumed (RACC) (140 g).

The docket for the rule hasn’t been posted, but the federal register notice can be found at here (PDF).

The rule considers the obvious question of whether the term “lean” should be restricted to nutritious food, and rejects the idea.

The term “lean” is a description of fat content…. FDA believes that all nutrient requirements for the claim “lean” should remain descriptors of fat content in order for “lean” to continue to allow consumers to distinguish between products of varying fat content.

The rule notes that there already is an approved definition of the term “healthy.” I guess consumers should just be on the lookout for the absence of that word as a red flag.

A thanks to Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute, whose morning e-mailed newsletter “poynted” out both stories.

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