Do You Know What You are Putting into Your Body?
Food manufacturers and packers have obligations to provide certain information on their labels. But it is up to us to read it.
We’ve all been there. You get back from work with a thumping headache and a million things to do around the house. Open the kitchen cupboard, grab a couple of pain killers, slosh them down with a glass of water and wait for them to kick in so that you can do what you need to do.
So what was that you just ingested? The astonishing answer is that only three in ten of us have the vaguest idea about what we are putting into our bodies in these kinds of circumstances, even though the information is there for everyone to see on the printed labels. You don’t even need to delve into that little information sheet that everyone throws straight into the recycling.
A survey of 45 subjects was carried out by NPR, an American broadcaster that is well aware of the old adage that if you ask a silly question, you get a silly answer. A few months ago, they brought us the news that seven percent of adult Americans genuinely believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
On this occasion, though, it is really no laughing matter. Tylenol is far and away the most popular painkiller in the USA. About 50 million Americans use it every week. Yet the majority have no idea what is in it.
A mere 31 percent knew that the active ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen. The majority of those surveyed thought it contained either ibuprofen or aspirin.
A similar study was carried out as part of a community survey by a pharmacist in Pennsylvania. This elicited identical findings, along with the even more alarming fact that less than 50 percent were able to identify the correct maximum daily dose of 4,000 mg.
Does it matter?
If consumers neither know nor care about what they are taking and the potential consequences, the results can prove deadly. Sadly, this is demonstrated in the Tylenol example, where almost half of all liver failures in the US are related to acetaminophen overdose.
Always read the label
The phrase itself sounds like something so obvious you should be telling it to your five year old, yet while it is easy to bash our friends from across the pond, intuitively, we know that if 70 percent of Americans know next to nothing about what they are putting into their bodies, the statistics for the UK are going to be there or thereabouts.
The food safety and labeling industries are putting more and more effort into providing meaningful and useful information, not just on over the counter drugs, but also on everything from chocolate bars to breakfast cereals and from smoothies to bottles of beer.
One thing they can’t do, however, is stand over us and make us read what is there. It behooves us all to be better informed about exactly what we are putting into ourselves and our children.