Stop, children … everybody look what’s going down.

Stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down”—For What It’s Worth: Buffalo Springfield

I saw this NY Times op-art piece and had to stop for a moment:

I admire the sentiment, but the execution is a little rough—The soda labels are good, and factually accurate, but the milk bottle is confusing and the bagged meal label makes no sense.

The soda bottles are clever, eye-catching, and say the right things. Drinking too much soda can lead to weight gain, diabetes, possibly tooth decay, and is generally not supposed to be a staple item.  The average American drinks 53 gallons of soda a year, mostly made with high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial non-nutritive sweeteners.  Irrespective of whether HFCS has a different metabolic path than sucrose (cane sugar), that’s still about 79,000 kilocalories a year to drink (that would be 565 12-floz cans of Coca-Cola classic).  Or in other terms, 20 lbs of fat, in energy terms.  Whether or not aspartame or sucralose have adverse health effects is a debate I’m not going to get into here.

The milk bottle doesn’t make sense to me: the label on the side says “organic” and there’s a big ‘no’ symbol on the big kid, so what do they mean? does it contain rBGH or not?

The bagged meal, is rather confusing as well: what do you mean by “this meal will not decompose for one year”?  Strange, but not really informative.  It sounds a little like the urban legend that Twinkies ® are intended for a 25 year life.  Apparently, they’re designed to last 25 days (see Twinkie, Deconstructed)

Information presentation is supposed to get a message across.  To that end, it has to be (A) the right message and (B) intelligible.  While the point of this is satire, injecting some levity into the recent announcement of more graphic labels on cigarette packages.  Those messages will have some effect, but I think the FDA could do well saying “this product is only available because the tobacco lobby bribed congress members” (appeal to moral revulsion)

For a very good discussion of moral revulsion and how your brain is cross wired, see here:


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