Brown Bag Lecture: “The Back of the Box: A Nutritional Label Guided Tour”

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A talk by Catherine Price

You stare at them every time you eat a bowl of cereal or wait for the pasta water to boil. But what’s the real story behind nutritional labels? What’s the difference between RDAs, RDIs, and DRIs—or, for that matter, EARs and DVs—and how were they established? What’s a calorie, and how did anyone figure out how many we need? What’s a vitamin, and how were they discovered? In this Brown Bag Lecture, Catherine Price took participants on a historical tour of a nutritional label, using as inspiration some of the foods they brought with them for lunch.

Catherine Price is a freelance journalist and 2012 Société de Chimie Industrielle fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, the New York Times, Popular Science, O, the Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, and Men’s Journal,  among others. A graduate of Yale University and the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism, she’s a contributing editor at Popular Science and author of a parody travel guide called 101 Places Not to See before You Die (HarperPaperbacks, 2010) and The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook (HarperCollins, 2009). She writes about diabetes for Her current project is a book about the history and science of vitamins and nutrition, to be published by Penguin Press.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.