On countless food packages, serving sizes have become a confusing joke.
I bought a frozen "personal pizza." That's what it said on the package, in big letters. From the name (and its size-it's not very big), you would think a "personal pizza" is for one person -- say, you. But according to the small print, it can feed both you and some other person: The serving size listed on the label is half a pie.
We took the "personal pizza" downtown to Little Italy in New York City for some expert opinions.
"I don't think you could share this with anybody!" said Francesco of Sal's Pizzeria.
One pizza baker said if he offered one of these little pizzas to his customers, "They'd throw it back in my face!"
Most people we talked to couldn't believe the recommended serving size for the "personal pizza." One young woman said, "My cat could eat that."
Why should we care what sleight-of-hand a company pulls on its label when describing serving sizes? Because people worried about their health need information -- and the information on the label is all based on the serving size. Unless people take their calculators with them when they shop, it's easy to get confused.
Most people would eat one blueberry muffin for breakfast. When the label tells you there are just 215 calories per serving, you'd think it was a reasonably low-cal breakfast. But the label in tiny print on one muffin ABC News bought also said the serving size was one-third of a muffin. If you ate the whole muffin, your light breakfast would be heavier than you expected -- and soon you might be, too: That "215 calorie per serving" muffin is really a 645-calorie bomb.
Most shoppers would probably pick up a Swanson's Hungry-Man turkey potpie at the grocery store and assume it's a single serving. After all, it's supposed to feed a hungry man. Yet the label says there are approximately two servings per pie. (Approximately two? I'm sharing my potpie with an approximate person now?)
So shouldn't there be some sort of standard on serving sizes? Guess what: There is. As usual, a government "solution" has created more problems.
In the early 1990s, our government summoned the food industry and had it test, weigh and measure 139 different types of food. Then, the government determined the amount each of us would customarily eat. So now, food companies have government support if they design labels that list absurd serving sizes. And why would they want to list absurdly small serving sizes?
"It's to make more money and to make people think they're eating healthier than they are," one shopper told me.
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