may have heard that New York City is leading the way in helping
us with our problems with portion control. The latest effort being
a ban on large
servings of sugary beverages.
before we get there… I want to start in a different place.
New York City.
on my desk.
not entirely proud to admit this, but there is a 20-ounce bottle
of soda on my desk at this moment. The “proud” idea is one related
to the New York article and not specifically any true embarrassment…
since the New York effort wouldn’t allow me to buy such a soda.
That effort would cap things at a 16-ounce serving. (And we will
get back to that.)
the bottle is a “Nutrition Facts” panel.
something we’ve all become familiar with. The panel has been found
on bottles of water, where it proudly shows zero after zero in
every category. No calories… no fat… no runs, drips, or errors.
this soda bottle in front of me, there is a division. Much like
Ben & Jerry’s wants to pretend there are four servings in
a pint of their ice cream, this soda bottle has information about
what to expect from a single serving as well as the two and a
half servings the full bottle contains. Get this…
one serving… 8-ounces… there are 110 calories.
naturally, in two-and-a-half servings… the 20-ounces of the bottle…
there are, of course, 275 calories.
the math any way you want...
times 110 equals 275
divided by 8) times 20 equals 275
plus 110 plus 55 equals 275
one serving has 110 calories, then two-and-a-half has 275.
two-and-a-half servings doesn’t.
bottle in front of me says that 20-ounces has 290 calories.
let’s add even more fun to the head-scratching. The math actually
works for sodium, carbs and sugars. 40mg of sodium in one serving
becomes 100mg in the bottle I have. So all of those formulas work.
the heck is going on with the mystical 15 extra calories per bottle?
you dig deep enough into the story, you’ll find out some funny
things about calories and nutrition labels. What kinds of things?
for instance that numbers can be rounded off. Really. A page from
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mentions
rounding rules and other details for nutrition labels.
many restaurants have incorrect numbers. (Sure they do.)
I have to say that I’m not upset with what Mayor Michael Bloomberg
is proposing. I saw him on the Today show discussing
this topic… on “National Doughnut Day” of all dates. And I can
appreciate the basics of the proposal, where the concept supposedly
isn’t to prevent you from getting as much liquid refreshment as
you wish -- rather presenting an idea where a smaller serving
size tends to lead to not overindulging. The law as I understand
it wouldn’t prevent you from buying two 16-ounce bottles of soda…
it would just make it impossible to get a single 32-ounce bottle.
Dare I say… without much more in addition… that almost sounds
I want to follow things to an extreme. (And not an illogical extreme.)
side note… go check out the history of National Doughnut Day.
Pretty amazing stuff that involves material from World War I and
the Great Depression. Now… that extreme…)
live in a society where people argue that the toys with the meal
are stronger than parental guidance… where baking a batch of cupcakes
for a youngster’s classroom should be a criminal offense.
seen the nutrition information of supposedly “healthy” options
like salads, which can be beyond any possible expectations, I
simply can’t argue against requiring restaurants and such having
those details not only available, but in some fashion posted.
I don’t oppose information, and in many ways can support attempts
problem is being policed on the subjects. We’re making soda and
such the evil doers, and yet as a public can’t even trust the
required labeling information to tell us exactly how evil. The
manufacturers might not exactly tell us… the restaurants might
not exactly tell us… and, the government that requires them to
tell us doesn’t require them to exactly tell us.
when we see actions start such as limiting beverages… how far
away are we from actions like legislating condiments? Use this
much salsa… don’t use that much honey mustard… two packets of
ketchup and one packet of salt per order.
guess is not nearly as far as you might expect.
fact is that numbers lie. (And, in efforts such as this, it can
be important that they don’t.) They can claim allowable rounding
off and acceptable calculation errors if they want… it’s still
effectively a lie. Give a group a loophole, and that loophole
will be used to any advantage possible. You have to consider the
source of the information you are using.
crazy as this may sound… I’m not upset or concerned about Mayor
Bloomberg promoting the sugary beverage limit effort. I just wish
we knew what a sugary beverage was. And while of course that statement
is a bit tongue-in-cheek, I don’t think it’s without merit. If
there is a chance of my finding a 32-ounce bottle of water in
New York… how long before the allowable rounding off brings a
soda into that allowable range?