The Student News Site of Taipei American School




Beyond the Food Labels


This article is a part of Foodie’s Central – a series dedicated to taking an in-depth look into what goes in our body. 
Other articles in this series:

[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]his summer I was walking through the drink section of Target trying to choose between the Tropicana Pomegranate blueberry Punch and the Peach coconut water.
As I carefully compared the two drinks, one indistinct piece of print on the front of the labels caught my eye: “contains real fruit juices.”
As I walked around the store this question ran through my head: When did our society come to a point where we might have to question whether bottles of juice contain real fruit or not? Exploring the aisles a little more, I was shocked to see a similar statement printed on boxes everywhere: Contains real cheese, made with real fruit, not artificial preservatives.
On nearly every item of packaged food was a disclaimer assuring me that the snack inside wasn’t completely a product of some chemical manipulation by men in white lab coats, and that there really might be something resembling real food inside.
This summer, StuGov had its members read the book Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which describes the increasingly hard to answer question “what are we eating.” I am reminded of a scene when the author asks his son [Isaac] about the meal he is eating:
“McDonald’s has reformulated the nugget with white meat…When I asked Isaac if the new nugget tasted more like chicken than the old ones, he seemed baffled by the question. ‘No, they taste like what they are, which is nuggets…duh’”
Isaac isn’t alone in his thinking, and it’s not an irrational thought process either. For many of us, many of our favorite snacks like chicken nuggets, instant noodles, or Oreos have been around forever, and they’ve become to us their own distinct flavors which we can’t trace back to something grown from the earth like an apple or an orange. We can’t claim to say exactly what they taste like. If I were asked the dubious question, “what does an Oreo taste like?” I would be just as inclined to quizzically answer, “… and Oreo?”
We take for granted that the things we eat are made of real ingredients. We forget that what we put into our mouths and swallow will affect our health and happiness.
I don’t mean to preach. You don’t have to convert to organic veganism or throw away all your boxes of pop-tarts. But we ought to be more conscious of something so important to our bodies. We shouldn’t settle for “contains real fruit juice.” I hope that someday fruit juice will just be fruit juice.

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