Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/348

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344
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

SCIENTIFIC STANDARDS FOR THE GOVERNMENTAL REGULATION OF FOODS
By JOHN R. MURLIN, A.M., Ph.D.
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PHYSIOLOGY, CORNELL UNIVERSITY MEDICAL COLLEGE, NEW YORK CITY

THUS far in our attempts to regulate by law the purity of foods admitted to interstate commerce, practically no attention has been paid to the real physiological economy of foods. Questions of purity, of what constitutes an adulterant, "What is ice cream?" etc., have been much before the public and much before the courts. The bone of contention in most cases has been not how much food value does a given product contain, but is it properly labeled or is it adulterated?

From the strictly legal point of view anything is an adulterant which belies the label; but from the physiological point of view nothing is an adulterant unless it really impairs the food value. Jams made with commercial glucose instead of cane sugar might very properly be excluded from commerce under the law as it stands, unless the label states clearly the fact that glucose is contained; but such jams would have exactly as much food value as if made of ordinary sugar, for glucose yields as much energy to the body as does cane or beet sugar. Similarly, nobody likes to be defrauded even in a technical sense and get oleomargarine under the label of butter, but how does the matter stand if oleo proves to be just as nutritious as butter? Is it not time there were an adequate standard for judging of food values? Should not the food manufacturers—those who put up foods in packages and sell them under protected trade marks be required to correctly express on the label the real physiological value of their products? If the purchaser has a choice of oleo plainly labeled at 25 cents a pound or of butter properly so designated at 40 cents a pound, what determines his choice? First of all, probably, the taste. But if it were practicable to show also the relative food value of the two parcels, would not this factor enter into his decision, and is not the purchaser entitled to this information? Similarly with other kinds of food. Take the cereal breakfast foods. Their number is legion. How is the purchaser to make an intelligent selection? At present the only way is first to buy and try the taste, the "lasting qualities," etc. But if it were possible to learn from the label its fuel value the housekeeper would be able to select from the staple articles either the most pleasing or the most nourishing foods.

According to the best scientific information to-day foods serve two