To the surprise of many nutritionists and health experts, the Food and Drug Administration has announced a revision to its "Good for You" food list, which will now include the long-time pseudo-healthy menu choice known as the Caesar Salad.
A traditional Caesar salad has 470 calories, 40 grams of fat (9 grams of which are saturated) and 1070 milligrams of sodium - hardly your typical "health food."
However, as Deputy Commissioner of Foods Michael Taylor explained, "We just couldn't continue discounting public opinion the way we had been. What the American people think is important to us, and people think salads are healthy. When we tried to tell people that Caesar Salad isn't good for you, they thought we were crazy, which caused them to doubt the rest of our information. Which only led to a downward-spiraling nutritional nightmare."
Taylor added, "Besides, considering what the average American eats on a daily basis, Caesar Salad may well be the healthiest thing in the mix."
Many in the food industry are touting the FDA's adjustment in the nutritional assessment of the Caesar Salad as Taylor's most significant accomplishment since his former stint in the FDA during the Clinton administration, when he helped rewrite the rules to allow rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone) into milk and dairy products.
"This is big," pronounced Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft, which, among its many food products, sells a variety of cheeses and salad dressings, including the Caesar. "We lobbied hard for this change, and it's extremely rewarding to see our efforts to come to fruition. What's good for Kraft is good for the economy, and what's good for the economy is good for people's health. The link is obvious, and we're delighted that Michael chose to finally acknowledge it."
By contrast, the nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Center for Science in the Public Interest condemned the FDA's action as a "fatty piece of crap." CSPI founder Michael Jacobson went so far as to accuse Taylor of betraying the public's health interests and cow-towing to pressure from the Food, Inc. world of mass junk food production.
"There's no way around it," said Jacobson. "Unless you really tweak the ingredients, Caesar Salad is simply not good for you. It's about as black and white an issue as you can get."
Jacobson's words didn't hold much weight with many American citizens, though, as CSPI does not accept any funding from corporate sources.
As 45-year-old Caesar Salad eater Annette Harding of Seattle asked, "How can I trust what this fringe 'nutrition' group is telling me? To me, the fact that no major corporation has chosen to endorse CSPI is very telling. Whereas, I know Kraft wouldn't lie to me, because its profits are at stake. And the government certainly wouldn't lead me astray."
Michael Taylor compared the FDA's reclassification of Caesar Salad as a health food to the continually evolving word definitions and spellings in Webster's dictionary. Taylor pointed out that if the general population misuses or misspells a word or phrase for long enough, a previously "incorrect" spelling or deinition may become acceptable.
As Taylor noted, "'Alright' never used to be a word, but because people kept writing 'alright' instead of 'all right,' now it's an accepted spelling. Same with the Caesar Salad. It's been alright with the American people for years. And it's more than alright with Kraft. So it was time to make it officially alright with the FDA. We're proud that the Caesar Salad is presently a health food, and I don't see that changing anytime soon."