Misleading Food Product Labels – What are you really getting?

I spoke a bit about misleading product labels in my article on Natural vs. USDA Certified Organic Foods and Supplements (click the link to check it out if you missed it!)

How often do you go to the grocery store looking for organic meats or vegetables to prepare dinner with?  As you’re browsing, you see many products with a label of “All natural!” or “No antibiotics or hormones.” But, do you see the stamp for USDA Certified Organic? Probably not, on most items.  This is what I want you to be very careful about and not be fooled into thinking you are getting the highest quality product, if you are seeking organic foods.

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Natural foods refers to foods that are not “minimally processed,” while certified organic refers to those items regulated and approved by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), manufactured completely organically and within the standards set forth by their Organic Food Products Act. It is very important to realize that there is no governing body of the word “Natural” as there is with USDA Certified Organic.  Placing the word “Natural” on a product label does not subject the product to rigorous testing.  i.e. it’s easy!!

Learn more about the regulations of product labeling here:  USDA Organic Labeling Regulations

What is “Minimally Processed” Food?

Dr. Catherine Cutter, Ph.D, an expert in food safety, food microbiology, food-borne pathogens, and much more defines a “processed food” as any food that has been altered from its original form.  She uses a wonderful example about an apple.  Consider something as simple as cutting an apple open.  Once you’ve cut it open, or peeled it, it is processed (but, minimally).  If you then turn the apple into applesauce, it is processed more as other ingredients are mixed with it.  The original apple is no longer.

Now, let’s discuss chicken for a moment.  Do you think chicken that is “minimally processed,” is truly natural? Absolutely not!  It has been modified greatly.  There are a myriad of reasons for food modifications, mainly surrounding two driving factors — demand and cost.  Manufacturers are in business to make a profit.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Their profit depends on their ability to sell a high quantity of product.  How can they speed up this process to keep up with demand?  By feeding their chickens growth hormones that are then passed along to you, your mother, your children.

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Buyer, Beware of Misleading Product Labels:

So you’re browsing in the grocery store and fill up your shopping cart with items that portray health — chicken that says “all natural,” a yogurt smoothie that says “healthies!” and chips or crackers that claim to be “preservative free.” Chances are, each of these labels are flashy, colorful, and attractive to help grasp your attention and pull you in.

Make sure to look for 100% USDA Certified Organic foods.  Do not be fooled by the labels that say “all natural” or “organic.”  There is such a thing as “mostly organic” which only requires 70% of the ingredients to be truly organic. What’s in that other 30%?!?

Example:

I found a new yogurt smoothie at the grocery store this weekend and thought it looked appealing.  I’m not a huge fan of yogurt, but enjoy the benefits it provides, so I try to have it several times per week.  I have found that sometimes, drinking the little smoothie drinks is easier.  It’s quicker! There have been some that were actually quite pleasant, but my attention got drawn to this particular product label since it said “Healthies!” in bright colors!  Let’s take a look at the label together:

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Pay special attention to the bottom, right photo.  “Partially processed with Genetic Engineering.”  But the top, right photo highlights the good things – fiber, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors/flavors, and vitamin/calcium content.  But what about this Genetic Engineering?  The definition of that is “the deliberate modification of the characteristics of an organism by manipulating its genetic material.”

I do commend this product label for disclosing this information, but I must wonder what GMO is involved? To what extent? What percentage of the drink is truly natural?

These are the things I want you to look for, and simply beware of.  Do not fool yourself, and certainly, do not let profit hungry manufacturers fool you.  If you are looking to implement truly organic food products into your life, I am here to help you learn more about how to do so the right way — not just half way.

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