There is a popular boba tea establishment in my neighborhood - Volcano Tea House, where I discovered their yummy milk tea drinks with boba (tapioca balls). I've always had a liking for green tea, especially ice cream, but I find these teas to be addictive. When I first discovered this place I was coming 2-3 times a week. And at about $4 per drink, its not a cheap habit! But the more I have become educated in nutrition, I started questioning everything I was putting into my body.
So today my fiance - who is unfortunately pent-up in our apartment due to a complicated foot surgery, resulting in a large cast and the need for pain killers - asked me to walk across the street and grab him a boba milk tea. Since he's not having much fun for the next several weeks (try more like 8-12) I'd do anything to put a smile on his face right now. So I jotted across the street to pick a few up. We order ours with just the milk tea mix, boba and ice.They usually add a simple syrup which I find to be sickeningly sweet, so I ask them to make it without the sugar.
While I was there, I remembered reading Food Babe's blog yesterday (posted on Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays blog) about a yogurt store called Yoforia she visited, and how they were marketing the use of organic ingredients. She asked for the ingredients in the store and several times via email, all with resistance. So it got me thinking - I wanted to see if this establishment - which by the way, is not a mom and pop store; Volcano Tea has locations in Monterey Park, Brea, Garden Grove, Las Vegas and West LA - provide a list of their ingredients.
Nope. No ingredient listing.
Of course this was according to the cashier, who was about 20 years of age, not really interested in my question and more interested in singing along to Lady Gaga's Bad Romance. I told her that most food establishments to my knowledge, are encouraged (although not required) to have ingredients available when asked, especially for those with allergies or food intolerances. She raised her eyebrows and asked me where I heard that from. I told her to check out the FDA website. She said she would speak with the manager about this, and I told her I would come back later to find out management's response.
When I returned home, I visited the Food and Drug Administration's website. I found this page, which provides "guidance" recommendations about ingredient listings for food establishments. In short, the FDA at this time does not require full nutrition labeling. However, if the establishment is making a claim, such as "low-fat," then those ingredients have to be available to support the claim.
I don't believe, to my recollection, that Volcano Tea House is making any health claims. But, out of consideration for their customers well-being, having ingredients available would show they care and also support their product. I know many people would also appreciate this. But then, most people don't stop to think what they are putting in their bodies on a daily basis.
In the case of Yoforia on Food Babe's blog, Yoforia was posting "Organic Tastes Better" all over their stores. Sadly, they will probably get away with this because they aren't specifically stating that ALL of their ingredients are organic, nor are they saying they don't use other ingredients known to be unhealthy. In many cases like this, people fall for marketing ploys and believe it is a healthy product. If you read Food Babe's blog, you will find out that this frozen yogurt also included many artificial ingredients and hydrogenated fats. I know I used to believe something was healthy when I saw a package stating it had a large amount of whole grains or it was "heart healthy." Nowadays that has changed. Especially with the most recent and personally disturbing (in my opinion) marketing campaign of changing the name of "high-fructose corn syrup" to "corn sugar." I could go on and on about why I think this is deceiving, but I'll save it for another blog.
For me, the point of writing this particular blog is to spread awareness of how manufacturers, restaurants and fast-food establishments can market their products in a less-than truthful way to gain consumers. It is a business, after all, and are in it for one thing most of the time: to make money. It is up to each individual to think and ask questions.
If you are health-conscious, are truly believe you are what you eat, then you are probably like me and believe you have a right to know what is in your food. If businesses don't provide this information when asked, I personally will go elsewhere. After all, what is there to hide? If we all continue to do this, hopefully our demands will be heard and the world will change along with our need for a more health-conscious environment.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Do you believe restaurants should be required to provide nutritional information? Why or why not?