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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Serving Sizes: I've Got Your "Fun Size" Right Here!

If there were ever doubts that the marketing and advertising world is just a tangled web of lies - you'd find it evident in two simple words: "Serving Size". For as long as I can remember, I've had people telling me to "read the food labels" and make "healthy choices". So, for most people, that involves picking up two things, looking at the calorie and RDA numbers sitting on the label on the back of the package, and then picking one with smaller numbers. Of course, NONE of that matters without bothering to take a look at the horrific description sitting next to those two simple words...

Who the hell gets to decide what a serving size should be??

Because they're not doing a very good job.

Case in point: A normal package of ramen noodles contains TWO servings.

That means that some people actually believe that while you're boiling water on a hot plate in some dilapidated dormroom to cook up a package of 10-cent noodles, you actually plan on only eating HALF of it. As if you're going to "save the rest for another meal". That right there is an outrage - and it's just the tip of the iceburg. Just about anything you purchase, food-wise or beverage-wise, has unacceptable ideas about how much you should be eating at once.

Fig Newtons: 2 cookies.

As Brian Regan says, "Two cookies? I eat Fig Newtons by the sleeve! Two sleeves is a serving size! Who the hell only eats two cookies? 'Oh, would you like a Fig Newton?' 'I don't know, I already ate two whole entire cookies - I don't know if I could muscle another one in... *mmmmph* No! I am stuffed to the rafters!' 'We got one for the E.R. here, we have a three Fig Newton eater!' 'HOW MANY DID HE HAVE???'"

Snickers: 35g-58.7g!

This one actually varies! I've seen a few wrappers (and I think you KNOW I've seen a few wrappers). The first one I had to look at was the "Fun-Size" wrapper, which thankfully admits that a serving size is TWO bars (40g). Then you move on to the regular-size candy bar, and the serving size changes to ONE bar, which is now 58.7 grams of candy confection. So okay, what about the King-Size bar? Now the serving size DROPS to ONE-THIRD of the bar, which is only 35 grams! As if I'm supposed to eat one-third of that bar, and then fold over the wrapper and go, "Boy, that was a tasty treat! Now I'll save the other two-thirds for two different snacking opportunities at later times!" That's bullshit, wrapped in a lovely chocolate coating.

Doritos: 11 or 12 chips.

Another interesting variance here. No matter what the size of the bag, the servings at least stay at a consistent unbelievable amount. Whether it's a "Snack-Size" bag (which pretty much contains only 11 or 12 freakin' chips) to a normal-sized bag to the Family-Sized bag (because they eliminated Super-Size for no real reason) - it's always 11 or 12 chips. This variance is strangely dependant on the FLAVOR of Doritos being consumed. If it's Nacho Cheese, you get 11 chips in your 28-gram serving. If it's Cool Ranch, you can actually get to eat 12 chips as your 28-gram serving. I guess all that orange powder weighs more on each chip than the green/red powder. Go figure!

Seriously, I could go on all day citing horrible amounts of serving sizes that just aren't true. I didn't even touch upon the nature of a 1/2-cup serving of ice cream. And the fact that most SCOOPS of ice-cream are more than 1/2-cup, so shouldn't that throw up a warning sign that a serving OBVIOUSLY is more than what's being printed?

Bottom line - serving sizes need to be revamped, big time. I'd say that if an average American can open up a package and consume the entire contents and not think twice about it - the serving size is "one package". Adjust the calorie/fat content nutritional label accordingly, so we can understand that we KNOW we're going to be eating the whole thing, so just tell us how bad it is for us. Don't lie and say that my ramen is "only" 38% of my daily recommended allowance of sodium if one actual package really contains 76%! There's too many large packages out there that hide behind the motto of "but we printed that you're only supposed to have ONE cookie as a serving! Not our fault if you ate half the package, which is 6 cookies!"

I also want to briefly touch upon one more FDA-bullshit fact: if a serving contains less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving, a product can be labelled as "nonfat" or "fat-free". Legally. Approved by the FDA. What they DON'T regulate is the serving size! A spraycan of aerosolized cooking spray (MADE ENTIRELY OF FAT) has a serving size of less than 0.5 grams. So it logically doesn't contain more than 0.5 grams of fat in the serving. So it can print "NONFAT" on the label! Imagine! A product MADE OF FAT can declare itself NONFAT if the serving size is small enough!

If that's not enough to convince you to never ever trust the FDA, I've got lots more stories I could tell. But for now, I'll leave it at that - and open the floor for any other complains about poor choices of serving sizes! Feel free to post some of your own!

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