Small print in labelling poses danger to seniors

Last weekend, I had to take an over-the-counter medicine and as usual, I began reading instructions about how to take the pill and what side effects I could expect.
Or rather, I began NOT reading the instructions. Why? Because I found the tiny, tiny type impossible to decipher.
After laboriously reading a few lines with a magnifying glass, I just “took my medicine,” hoping it wouldn’t interact with any foods or other medicines I’m taking.
And I began thinking back to age 45 when suddenly my 20/20 vision began slipping and I no longer could read the phone book with ease.
At that time, there was an easy solution: bifocals. But as people age, there often is no easy solution for vision loss. Cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other eye problems result in low vision.
Some problems are correctable. Some aren’t. As a result, many older people have a vision disability when it comes to navigating life.
So I decided to do a little bit of research, going to the grocery store to find out just how a person with low vision would fare when trying to shop.
First, I headed to the salad dressing shelves. Once there, I picked a name brand Balsamic Vinaigrette, thinking it would have the fewest number of ingredients. Imagine my surprise that even this simple salad dressing had 22 illegible ingredients.
A Light Ranch dressing of the same brand had 26 ingredients. I had someone read the list of ingredients in the tiny type, and he found many of them were unpronounceable.
Next I headed to the soup shelves, where I picked a name brand can of Cream of Chicken Soup at random. It had 26 ingredients, including monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Since many people like me are sensitive to MSG, and everyone is affected slightly, this is an important ingredient to be aware of.
A University of Maryland Medical Center study associated MSG with glaucoma. Other adverse reactions are asthma, migraine headaches, seizures, heart irregularities, and obesity. The www.truthinlabeling.org website says that “MSG kills brain cells and causes a variety of adverse reactions.”
And the bad thing is that MSG parades under many other names, like yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, sodium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, gelatin, natural flavours, spices, etc.
Since it’s older people with imperfect vision who take much of the medicine and are most likely to be adversely affected by MSG and other additives, it’s important for them to be able to read labels.
In recent years, our society has become very aware of physical impairment. As a result, it’s possible for a person with some physical handicap to shop for groceries. Most stores provide handicapped parking spaces and motorized carts.
And services for the hearing impaired have improved. Telecommunications companies (radio, telephone, television, etc.) are required to provide services for the hard of hearing.
Now it’s time for a truth in labelling law—a law that lets us actually read what is in our food and medicine. With so much at stake, older people deserve better.
Because small print used in labelling is not only discriminatory, it may be extremely dangerous.

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