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Feds' Food Fight Isn't About Consumers

Corey Friedman on

If Ander Christensen doesn't parlay his viral video stardom into a political campaign, there might be a federal government job waiting for him.

The Nebraska man made an impassioned plea to the Lincoln City Council: Tell restaurants to rename boneless chicken wings on their menus, as the meaty morsels are "just chicken tenders."

"...We've been living a lie for far too long, and we know it -- and we feel it in our bones," Christensen said to a rumble of laughter and a smattering of applause.

During his tongue-in-cheek public comment, Councilman Roy Christensen's 20-something son suggested "Buffalo-style chicken tenders," "wet tenders" and "saucy nugs" as alternatives.

Those would be a marked improvement over the U.S. Department of Agriculture's actual name for the product. The agency doesn't regulate restaurant menus, but its Food and Safety Inspection Service decreed that "wyngz" with a Y and a Z is the closest facsimile of "boneless wings" it will allow on food packaging.

Bureaucrats think misspelling a common word creates an entirely new word, which is why there are precise distinctions between "light" and "lite."

 

Arcane food labeling rules might seem frivolous if manufacturers weren't trying to weaponize them in an effort to give their products a competitive advantage. Egged on by industry lobbyists, regulators are pushing for plant-based foods like meatless burgers and almond milk to adopt unappetizing new names.

In July 2018, the Food and Drug Administration published a proposed rule that would ban the word "milk" from almond, soy and coconut milk containers. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 gives the agency authority to police "standards of identity" on commercial food labels to ensure descriptions aren't false or misleading.

"An almond does not lactate," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb reasoned, a deadpan declaration every bit as funny as ranting to your city council about the scourge of boneless wings.

The FDA has yet to issue a final rule on nut milks. The dairy industry, which feigns concern about consumer confusion but really wants to kneecap competitors and preserve its market share, would prefer to limit plant-based alternatives to the less appealing "nut juice."

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