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A definition of “love” from the US Food and Drug Administration

Love statue.
Reuters/Charles Mostoller
Love by statue and by statute.
By Ephrat Livni
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Professional and home chefs, everywhere and forever, have claimed to rely on one special, ineffable spice that makes any dish extra-nice. Officially, however, love is not an ingredient.

Truth-in-labeling regulations are no joke, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not take kindly to deceptive practices, like listing feelings as ingredients. In a less-than-affectionate warning letter to the Nashoba Brook bakery in Massachusetts, the agency attempted what has long eluded poets: defining “love.”

It turns out that this heady stuff humans live and die for is, technically, an “intervening material,” according to the FDA. The agency’s letter was, perhaps inadvertently, quite humorous, noting:

Your Nashoba Granola and Whole Wheat Bread (wholesale and retail) products are misbranded within the meaning of  [the law] because they are fabricated from two or more ingredients, but the labels fail to bear a complete list of all the ingredients by common or usual name…. For example,
Your Nashoba Granola label lists ingredient “Love.” Ingredients required to be declared on the label or labeling of food must be listed by their common or usual name. “Love” is not a common or usual name of an ingredient, and is considered to be intervening material because it is not part of the common or usual name of the ingredient.

The bakery’s CEO, John Gates, told Bloomberg that the FDA’s letter felt Orwellian and silly. “I really like that we list ‘love’ in the granola. People ask us what makes it so good. It’s kind of nice that this artisan bakery can say there’s love in it and it puts a smile on people’s face.”

Still, in fairness to the agency, deceptive labels were not the FDA’s main complaint. The bakery’s facilities fell short of sanitation requirements and will have to put more love into upkeep if it hopes to pass the next inspection.

As for cooking with the good feel in question here, don’t let the law stop you unless you’re selling the stuff and making labels for it.

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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