Loonie Labels in La-La Land

By Josh Bloom — Apr 07, 2017
If you live in California, you're probably sick and tired of see idiotic warning labels every time you turn around. It's almost entirely due to Proposition 65, which has produced unending headaches without helping anyone. A couple more — for food colorings and soda – could be your future. Label these legislators stupid.   

In a world that is jam-packed with things to worry about—most of them nonsense—we have more nonsense, courtesy of California State Sen. Bob Wieckowskia (D): a law requiring warning labels for all foods that contain synthetic dyes and are sold in the state .This includes restaurants. There has never been a law like this before. 

"This bill would establish the Protecting Californians from Synthetic Food Dyes Act, which would make it a crime for a person to manufacture, package, sell, offer to sell, distribute, or import for sale or distribution within the State of California food that contains synthetic dyes without a prescribed label, either on the package or on the shelf or bin where the food is displayed for bulk foods. The bill would require prescribed language to be included on the menu or menu board of a restaurant when a dish includes synthetic food dyes. By creating a new crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program."

"Protecting Californians from Synthetic Food Dyes Act (SB 504)". Introduced by Senator Wieckowski. Color him stupid.

Yep. Just what we need. MORE labels in California. (See: "Should California Put a Warning Label on Your Penis?")  Those Californians sure love their labels. In case you think I'm kidding, these are all real:

Label these insane.

So, what happens is this screwball law gets passed. Well, you won't be any healthier. There are a total of seven FDA-approved synthetic food dyes. Is the FDA worried about them? Apparently not:

"Color Additives: Questions and Answers for Consumers" (FDA publication)

Are color additives safe to eat?

Yes, color additives are safe when they are used in accordance with with FDA regulations.

These dyes are already listed on candy packages and cans of food, but if you happen to own a restaurant in California, life may become decidedly more complicated. For example, if you have to alter the format of your menu, might it look something like this?

California Dessert Menu (more or less) if Sen. Bob Wieckowskia Gets His Way

But, the madness doesn't stop with colors. If another genius, California State Senator Bill Monning, gets his way, California is going to require another really stupid label. This one will be for some drinks with added sugar (1) that contain more than 75 calories. Because absolutely no one already knows that soda contains sugar (2), and that too much of it can make you obese, diabetic, and give you cavities. Duh. So, by all means, just put a label on it. Aside from costing companies more money (and effort) to let people know that drinks with sugar contain sugar, it's a swell idea. Just like cancer labels on hotel rooms and chairs. 

“STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay.” Similar point-of-sale warnings would be required in any premises where a vending machine or beverage dispensing machine is located, or where sugar-sweetened beverages are sold in an unsealed beverage container. The bill specifically excludes drinks containing 100 percent natural  (3) fruit juice or natural vegetable juice; drinks mainly made from animal milk or milk substitute."

Which makes me wonder if this can be far in the future: 

There is, however, a serious downside to insane labeling. When you label everything, you are effectively labeling nothing. It's a pretty good bet that Californians are so inundated with (mostly stupid) warning labels that don't pay the slightest attention to any of them. And, how could they? When you see Prop 65 labels at gas stations, in hotel rooms, and on Starbucks coffee, it is impossible not to become desensitized to all labels—even the few that are legitimate and helpful. The more labels (especially idiotic ones), the less people will pay attention.

Label that stupid.


(1) "Added sugar" is a total BS term. It is meaningless and confusing. The sugar is either there or it's not. If it is there, it doesn't matter whether it was added by some guy in a factory or the by the tree. Your body cannot tell the difference. So, a 12-ounce can of orange soda and a 12-ounce bottle of orange juice should have the same label, but only the soda will get stuck with the label. If California wants to waste its time telling people what they already know, they should do it correctly:

These two should both contain the same warning label. But they won't. Why? Who knows?

(2) I know the standard response: Soda is "empty calories." I don't buy it. However empty or full the calories are, if the goal of labeling is to reduce sugar consumption, then they should be treated the same. And, if you chuck a vitamin pill into orange soda, is it no longer "empty calories?" Stupid. 

(3) Just another example of the myth of the artificial/man-made divide. As I have written many times, the source of the chemical, vitamin, food component, etc. is irrelevant. Natural products are no more or less safe than those that are synthesized. The body "sees"  the compound, drug, chemical, etc., and does whatever it is going to do. It does not know of care where the stuff comes from. Did you know that almost all of the vitamin C that is sold in health food stores is made in factories in China? (See: "Vitamin C Conundrum For The Organic Crowd"). Swallow that, Mother Jones.


Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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