Looks like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is finally getting around to looking out for consumers’ health — to a certain degree.
Under a recently passed rule, beginning Jan. 1, 2012, the USDA will require that packaging on 40 of the most popular cuts of meat and poultry be labeled with nutritional information such as number of calories and fat content, according to a statement from the agency.
The new rule is a slow start at demanding full disclosure of food content, but it raises several questions. First, why is this just now becoming a requirement? And why have our most vulnerable — and potentially dangerous — food products been exempt from these disclosure requirements for so long?
But more importantly, is labeling for nutritional information enough? I would argue that full disclosure of fat and caloric content of food will not stop Americans from indulging in, say, a nice, juicy steak — just like it hasn’t stopped them from eating at McDonalds.
Americans know their cheeseburgers are greasy. What’s still lacking is knowledge — and disclosure from the agricultural behemoths — of the other aspects of our corrupt food system: genetic modification, hormone-induced growth, antibiotic-fed animals, and unsustainable raising methods.
Shouldn’t we demand more? It’s quite clear — for obvious reasons — that the USDA has serious reservations about requiring labels such as this:
“This product contains 100% genetically modified content, and is made from animals fed the following hormones and antibiotics (listed here) until the animal was so fat it could no longer stand up. The contents of this product are also known to cause cancer, so eat at your own risk.”
You may assume from statements like this one that I am part of the PETA crowd, but I am far from a supporter of these kinds of groups. In fact, I am not even a vegetarian — I enjoy meat just as much as the next barbecue fanatic. What I am advocating, however, is full disclosure of the origins and contents of our food — not just it’s nutritional value.
There is no justifiable reason why we, as citizens of this country, should not be informed about the origins and contents of our food. The lack of disclosure, in fact, is what is contributing to the continuation of unsustainable practices. Until the USDA decides to take its efforts a bit farther, the best we can do is continue to support organic farms that use sustainable practices.