A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from July 10, 2015
“If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it”

"If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it” is a saying that has been printed on many images. The saying refers to the chemical additives in many foods—not to the difficult-to-pronounce foreign words. “Shoppers Must Know Chemistry and Math” by Philip H, Love was printed in several newspapers in 1963 and contained the quote:

“‘I heard what you said about chemicals,’ said an elderly man. ‘My motto is, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.’”

“A good rule to follow about foods might be:  If you can’t pronounce it and/or understand it, don’t eat it!” was written by Emily Wilkens in her syndicated newspaper column in March 1968. “I have read that if you can’t pronounce it or do not know what the preservative is in a product, don’t buy it. Read the label” was printed in Bossier Banner-Progress (Benton, LA) on March 4, 1971. “Avoid foods containing chemical additives. Read the labels and take this hint from one prominent nutritionist: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it” was printed in the Los Angeles (CA) Times on June 20, 1971.

The Consumer’s Catalog of Economy & Ecology (1974) by Jeanne Bendick and Robert Bendick explained:

“An axiom of health-food eaters when reading labels is: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. (The things you can’t pronounce are chemicals and additives.)”

Not everyone agrees with this advice. “Dr. Alfin-Slater (Dr. Roslyn B. Alfin-Slater of UCLA—ed.) says there is no basis for the popular theory that goes, ‘If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it,’ referring to the scientific names on ingredient lists. ‘If you were to analyze food for its constituents, you would find a great many chemicals which are naturally and normally present,’ she said” was printed in The Morning Call (Allentown, PA) on January 26, 1973.

“If you can’t pronounce it, perhaps you shouldn’t be eating it” was printed in the Hartford (CT) Courant on November 6, 1985. “You’ve probably heard the health conscious mantra popularized by Michael Pollan: ‘If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be eating it’” was posted on Twitter by Mateus Lok on May 20, 2012. American food author and journalist Michael Pollan did not invent the saying, but is often given credit for this version.


12 August 1963, The Evening Star (Washington, DC), “Shoppers Must Know Chemistry and Math” by Philip H, Love, pg. B18, col. 7:
“I heard what you said about chemicals,” said an elderly man. “My motto is, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.”

Newspapers.com
28 March 1968, Hartford (CT) Courant, “In the Age of Plenty Americans Eat Poorly” by Emily Wilkens, pg. 31, col. 2:
JUST FOR YOU: A good rule to follow about foods might be:  If you can’t pronounce it and/or understand it, don’t eat it! The possibly dangerous effect of many of these additives and preservatives may not be known for some time to come, yet stoically we go on taking them.

Newspapers.com
4 March 1971, Bossier Banner-Progress (Benton, LA), “Through a Fenetre” by Mary Fenet, pg. 1, col. 3:
I have read that if you can’t pronounce it or do not know what the preservative is in a product, don’t buy it. Read the label.

Newspapers.com
20 June 1971, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Health Foods Mean Plain Good Nutrition” by Marilyn Lambson, sec. L, pg. 1, col. 6:
Avoid foods containing chemical additives. Read the labels and take this hint from one prominent nutritionist: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.

Newspapers.com
5 October 1971, York (PA) Dispatch, “Be Wary of Nutrition Advice” by Barbara Hansen, pg. 25, col. 4:
Dr. Alfin-Slater (Dr. Roslyn B. Alfin-Slater of UCLA—ed.) says there is no basis for the popular theory that goes, “If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it,” referring to the scientific names on ingredient lists.

“If you were to analyze food for its constituents, you would find a great many chemicals which are naturally and normally present,” she said.

Newspapers.com
26 January 1973, The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), “Importance Of Labels Emphasized,”
“If you can’t pronounce the ingredients on food labels, don’t buy it.”

These were the words of health food advocate Mrs. Jane Kinderleher (Kinderlehrer is correct—ed.) who addressed the Sisterhood of Temple Beth El this week in the temple.

Mrs. Kinderleher, author of “Confessions of a Sneaky Organic Cook” and senior editor of Convention magazine (Prevention magazine by Rodale Press—ed.), spoke of the sneaky strategy available to mothers interested in their families’ health.

Google Books
The Consumer’s Catalog of Economy & Ecology
By Jeanne Bendick and Robert Bendick
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
1974
Pg. 60:
An axiom of health-food eaters when reading labels is: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. (The things you can’t pronounce are chemicals and additives.)

Newspapers.com
17 January 1975, The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), “This month I pay this bill next month I pay that” by Gwenn Wells, pg. A-7, col. 3:
She’s fond of quoting a friend, a nutritional psychologist, who says the best way to buy food is to read labels—if you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.

18 July 1975, The Register (Santa Ana, CA), “Nutrition, Disease Link Seen” by Kathy Baugh, pg. D1, col. 1:
“Read the labels on all foods. If you can’t pronounce it, then don’t eat it.”
(Jeanne McGowen.—ed.)

27 April 1978, San Diego (CA) Union, “Eating What Comes Naturally: Her Philosophy Goes With The Grain” by Jeannette Branin, pg. C-16, col. 1:
If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

If the ingredient list on a food product reads like a prescription, avoid it.

Google Books
John Marino’s Bicycling Book
By John Marino
Los Angeles, CA: J.P. Tarcher; Boston, MA: Distributed by Houghton Mifflin
1981
Pg. 120:
Hal Bennett has a way of simplifying the whole issue of chemicals in our foods: “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.”

Google Books
Why Calories Don’t Count
By Paul A. Stitt and Scott Knickelbine
Manitowoc, WI: Natural Press ; Chicago : Distributed by Contemporary Books
1983, ©1982
Pg. 59:
The best rule of thumb is: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.

It is especially crucial to avoid so-called “diet foods.” Most people don’t realize that manufacturers convert foods into diet foods primarily by reducing the over-all food value of the product.

Newspapers.com
6 November 1985, Hartford (CT) Courant, pg. E2, col. 2:
If you can’t pronounce it, perhaps you shouldn’t be eating it.
(Legume.—ed.)

OCLC WorldCat record
If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it : and other tips for health happy children
Author: Janet Tubbs
Publisher: Phoenix, AZ (3743 E. Glenrosa Avenue, Phoenix 85018) : Creative Concepts for Children, ©1987.
Edition/Format: Print book : English

Google Books
Health Metamorphosis
By Dori Luneski
Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Pub.
1997
Pg. 48:
CHEMICAL FOOD ADDITIVES IF YOU CAN’T PRONOUNCE IT, DON’T EAT IT! I can pronounce apple. Butylated hydrexyanisole, tertiary butylhydroquinone are chemicals used in some salad dressings, that don’t sound like words said around the old country wood stove.

Twitter
Raw Food Nation
@RawFoodNation
Replying to @TaylorMadeRaw
@TaylorMadeRaw the rule is, if you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be eating it!
5:46 PM · Apr 10, 2009·Twitter Web Client

Google Books
Live Raw:
Raw Food Recipes for Good Health and Timeless Beauty

By Mimi Kirk
New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing
2011
Pg. ?:
READ FOOD LABELS BEFORE YOU BUY ANY PRODUCT
If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it! Most processed foods are filled with additives and stripped of nutrients. They are full of sweeteners, fats, colorings, and preservatives. If the ingredient is too difficult to pronounce or if there area long list of ingredients, walk away from that product.

Twitter
Mateus Lok
@imateuslok
You’ve probably heard the health conscious mantra popularized by Michael Pollan: “If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be eating it.”
8:15 AM · May 20, 2012·Twitter Web Client

Twitter
Dr. Joseph Mercola
@mercola
“If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be eating it.” - Michael Pollan, American author
7:50 PM · May 27, 2012·Hootsuite

Google Books
Paleo in 28:
4 Weeks, 5 Ingredients, 130 Recipes

By Kenzie Swanhart
Arcas Publishing
2015
Pg. ?:
The only way to really know if something is Paleo friendly is to read the ingredients and determine for yourself. Remember: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Friday, July 10, 2015 • Permalink