Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Claims about our food

The health claims made by potato chip manufacturers apparently vary with the price. Most popular are reminding people what's NOT in the bag: every negative increases the cost by 4 cents per ounce. Expensive chips are much more likely to have any health claim than cheap chips, which tend to emphasize being locally made.

Sugar says that using the term "corn sugar" misleads consumers by claiming that "HFCS is natural and is indistinguishable from the sugar extracted from sugar cane and sugar beets." Corn says sugar is misleading consumers by "wrongfully alleging that high fructose corn syrup (a sugar made from corn) causes health issues that do not arise from consuming cane and beet sugar." While the journalist reporting on this does manage to get M. Nestle (way down at the bottom) to comment, we also get a quote from an "alternative medicine guru and author" ... What? All the real doctors were busy?

Speaking of sugar, how much is in kids' cereals? M. Nestle reports on an Environmental Working Group report:

kids’ cereals are really cookies in disguise, typically 40% -50% sugars by weight.   Kellogg’s Honey Smacks topped the list at 55%. ... 
The good news is that at least some cereals are managing to reduce sugar content. (Image source: General Mills)

 There is a claim that Wendy's may soon be the #2 burger establishment, unseating the Burger ... well, he can't be king since he's #2 and about to be #3, how about the Burger Prince then? I have appreciated seeing Wendy's posting calorie counts in some states that don't require them and have adapted my own consumer choices accordingly. Just don't go to the Wendy's in Ithaca - I got food poisoning there twice. Update: On Wendy's triumphant return to Japan.

Carl's Jr's chief, meanwhile claims the Affordable Care Act will be bad for business because it will increase the costs of doing business. His argument makes it sound as if this is a fixed cost - the company will just have to shell out an extra $18 mil each year. Actually, they are variable costs that depend on how many people they choose to employ. Making labor more expensive does discourage building more stores as he says on an income effect, but there is a substitution effect that tells them to use more machines and fewer people, or more temps who can be excluded from the Act. Yglesias points out that much more relevant are the requirements that say restaurants like Carl's Jr will need to post calorie and other nutrition information, which will likely have an even larger impact than the employment costs.

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