American Madness

Intelligent Criticism in the Service of a Better Nation

Food Labels for Morons

Posted by Jason Ihle | 7 Comments

Cross posted at Mostly Movies.

File this one under “More Unnecessary Government Regulation”:

According to a New York Times article, the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging the FDA to require labels on foods that are choking hazards for small children.

I realize that I’m going to come across looking like I’m not interested in protecting kids because what harm could there possibly be in alerting people to potential dangers? If it saves only a handful or even just one child’s life, isn’t it worth it?

Perhaps not. With the growing list of required food labels we’re slowly approaching the point where companies won’t have any space on their packaging for their brand. Ingredients listings and nutritional content have been there my whole life and I see the necessity of those two things. But then you throw in the allergy warnings that have to be plastered onto any food that might have been handled by a person who eats nuts because our society has become so ridiculously paranoid about food allergies and you begin to see the absurdity.

Now they want to push for a choking hazard label? The problem with excess labeling is that it becomes a bunch of white noise to the consumer. With so much information, more people are less likely to read anything on the package.

So a choking hazard label will become just another piece of information ignored by parents. Isn’t it kind of self-evident that foods such as carrots, grapes, popcorn, gumballs are potential choking hazards for toddlers? The same is true for any object of about those sizes. Should pennies be minted with a choking hazard label? “E Pluribus Unum. In God We Trust. One Cent. May Be Hazardous to Small Children”.

I believe government should stay as far out of people’s lives as possible. I believe that every time the government hands down another law it leaves a little bit less freedom for everyone. Government should be there to keep things operating smoothly and people should be expected to have a sense of personal responsibility. And therein lies the biggest consequence of excess labeling: the creation of a society of individuals who think nothing is their fault if they weren’t specifically told. This is the reason every hot coffee or hot chocolate you purchase comes with the stupidly obvious warning: “Contents may be hot.” Because without that warning, a woman almost successfully sued McDonald’s for burning herself with a coffee she purchased there (actually that lawsuit was more complex than most people remember, but the point stands – the hot coffee labels followed). It is not the government’s job to save people from their own stupidity or ignorance.

The article trudges out the sad tale of a Patrick Hale who gave his two small children popcorn while watching a video and his 2 year old daughter choked to death as a result. This is a tragedy. Could it have been avoided if the microwave popcorn package carried a warning? Possibly, but I don’t see that as reason enough for a government mandate. The Hales sued the popcorn company and settled out of court.

Think about that. The Hales passed the blame for their child’s death onto a company that didn’t label something as a choking hazard. Maybe it’s because my mother runs a daycare at home so I’ve always been around children, but it’s pretty obvious to me that popcorn is a choking hazard – not least of all because I’ve almost choked on popcorn several times!

The money quote comes at the end of the article. Okay, I can’t possibly understand what it must feel like to lose a child. I am fairly certain that just about anyone in such a situation would be looking for an explanation, a scapegoat, a method of shifting blame to someone else if the fault ostensibly lies with one of the parents. But I’m stunned at the cowardice of the Times reporter who closed the article with this:

“Not a day goes by,” Ms. Hale said, “where my husband doesn’t feel like it’s his fault and he did something wrong.”

Well, it is his fault because he gave his two year old daughter popcorn. That’s not the manufacturer’s fault. But maybe that settlement will help ease their pain.


7 Responses to “Food Labels for Morons”

  1. CHhoch
    May 24th, 2010 @



  2. Joel Friedlander
    May 25th, 2010 @

    Government regulations often operate by misdirection. When we need to control how the financial markets work, the government, which is paid off by the large banks and corporations, focuses its attention on how much fat there is in our foods. This action focuses the peoples attention upon unnecessary regulation rather than on a genuine problem. This sort of action is inherent in a government where the legislators must secure huge sums of money to get reelected and must therefore rely upon deep pockets to fund them.

    We are now in a financial crisis because we left the markets unregulated; we are in an ecological crisis in the Gulf of Mexico because we allowed the large oil companies to do whatever they wanted without regulation; we are in a military crisis because we allowed our leadership to put us in two wars (among many others) where the justifications were questionable and where we have been stuck for almost a decade.

    Misdirection is the order of the day. Yes, it is ridiculous to want every single product on the market to warn of everything that can possibly happen to you. Beware: When riding a two wheel bicycle you may encounter a death risk if you are hit by a motor vehicle even if you wear a helmet, gloves and elbow pads.

    Life, as you actually suggest, is risky and there is no way to make it otherwise. Part of the problem is that people and companies want to be protected from liability for their acts and so buy insurance. The insurance companies are then put in the position of dictating how the company is going to behave, or they will take away the insurance.

    We have lived in a society for a very long time, where everyone is afraid of taking any risks because they, or their children, can get hurt. We have become a nation of cowards as a result. We are afraid to let our children go outside alone to play for fear that someone will kidnap them. Kids are forced to play in leagues, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, basketball, because their parents will not let them take their ball and go to the park or field to play. As a result of these controls, individual initiative and creative thinking are minimized and often destroyed.

    Recently, the new wave of school actions is to remove bullies from the educational system. I don’t know about you, but standing up to a bully was one of the ways that children became self confident when I was a kid. You stood up to them, had a fight, and that was the end of that.

    Finally, and this is my favorite, eliminating any possibility of eating peanut butter in school. I go to a religious prayer site that is peanut free!!! The reason is that one or two of the kids that go there are allergic to peanuts, even if they aren’t eating them. It seems that if someone cracks open a peanut somewhere in the room, the very essence of the peanut will cause them to choke to death. My response to the schools elimination of peanuts is that it is foolish, because in the general society people are going to eat peanut butter and the students protected while in school will be confronted by the problem. We can’t protect everyone from everything, and as you point out, we shouldn’t try.

  3. Joel Friedlander
    May 25th, 2010 @

    OK, one more significant gripe. Just about everyone carries a cell phone, and as long as that is being used, the phone company, and by extension, the entire government can monitor exactly where you are, where you have been, and perhaps determine where you will be going. We have given up our independence of action for the convenience of having the capability of instant communication.

    Perhaps it doesn’t bother most people, but increasingly it is impossible to have any privacy in major cities. In London, for example, there are cameras all over the place. If you want to meet with your insignificant whatever he or she is, you will find yourself on camera. If you use a credit card to get a room to converse in with your paramour, there is a complete record of it available to the government, the card company, the FBI, CIA, and your wife or husband! Ahem!

    Go to Yellowstone Park and you’re sure to encounter a Moose or Caribou who has a digital camera strapped to its antlers. There is no more real time alone. This is the price that we pay here to be sure that no one can ever rob us or rape us. There is a negative side to being forever protected.

    But, I love Big Brother,

    Winston Smith, Outer Party Member

  4. Jason
    May 25th, 2010 @

    My brother sends his daughter to a school that restricts what the kids are allowed to bring for snack – no peanuts or peanut products allowed – because as you said, the very essence of the peanut is deadly to someone with an allergy.

  5. Eric
    May 25th, 2010 @

    The reminds me of the joke that circulated in college about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide. It is a colorless and odorless chemical compound responsible for the death thousands every year. And yet, our government does nothing to stop it!

    From the website

    “Although the U.S. Government and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do not classify Dihydrogen Monoxide as a toxic or carcinogenic substance (as it does with better known chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and benzene), DHMO is a constituent of many known toxic substances, diseases and disease-causing agents, environmental hazards and can even be lethal to humans in quantities as small as a thimbleful.”

    Clearly we needed better labeling to protect the population from the dangers of DHMO!

  6. Joel Friedlander
    May 26th, 2010 @

    The above link shows that DHMO is used:

    “* as an additive to food products, including jarred baby food and baby formula, and even in many soups, carbonated beverages and supposedly “all-natural” fruit juices
    * in cough medicines and other liquid pharmaceuticals,
    * in spray-on oven cleaners,
    * in shampoos, shaving creams, deodorants and numerous other bathroom products,
    * in bathtub bubble products marketed to children,
    * as a preservative in grocery store fresh produce sections,
    * in the production of beer by all the major beer distributors,
    * in the coffee available at major coffee houses in the US and abroad,
    * in Formula One race cars, although its use is regulated by the Formula One Racing Commission, and
    * as a target of ongoing NASA planetary and stellar research.”

    In view of its widespread use, banning this would affect multiple industries. It is highly unlikely that the government will go near banning it.

  7. Dihydrogen Monoxode, dude. Come on.
    July 6th, 2010 @

    Uh oh, looks like nobody clued Joel Friedlander in to the joke. Why don’t you write out how Dihydrogen monoxide would be abbreviated as a chemical? Just try it, then you might get the joke.

    I have also never lost a child, but I cannot believe that the Hales were dumb enough to feed a baby something perfectly shaped to lodge firmly in the trachea and occlude the airway. Maybe it’s because I’m an EMT… but seriously? I hope the settlement assuaged some of your guilt, Hale. You can’t feed choking hazards to little kids, even if you are “right there”, because if it gets stuck the baby will suffocate and DIE. It isn’t rocket science.

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