The Truth behind Food Labels

One of the seemingly best things about shopping at stores and markets today is that you’ll always know what you’re buying. Right? I mean, with many government regulations in dozens of countries, food labels have to be accurate and tell you all about the nutritional value of a product, as well as other factors like, obviously, price, the ingredients list and, for some products, even where it was made.

With the many regulations, today’s shopping trips are easy and you always get what you think you’re getting. Oh, you mean that’s not true? Well, it’s not. In fact, depending on what you’re shopping for, it’s not even close to true.

Before we get to the outright “lies” in food labeling, however, let’s speak a little bit about how misleading labeling can be. You think you’re buying one thing, but you’re really buying something completely different at times.

  • First up, let’s speak about organic foods. Now, most people purchase organic foods for a few reasons – and none really have to do with the taste being any better. Let’s be honest here. In blind taste tests, organics habitually bring less flavor to the party. But because you want to support local farmers, sustainable food and other causes, you’re willing to pay nearly 60% more for organics.

    The problem: organic foods only require that they’re labeled as organic. This means the tomatoes you’re spending 10 bucks on are probably from China, where they were imported for 50 cent. So while the label says organic, and the food is technically organic, it’s really misleading.

  • The same goes for a term like “natural“. When you read that a product is all natural, you’re assuming it’s good for you. However, no regulations stipulate that a manufacturer can’t label foods as natural, unless you’re dealing with meat/poultry, so a lot of things you buy that say natural might be anything but.
  • Let’s talk about low fat labeling and outright lies. Let’s say you’re looking at a can of cooking spray. The spray is butter flavored, 100% nonstick, and supposedly contains 0% fat. Wow, you really found something great for your diet. Or have you? You see, there’s just as much fat in that oil as in any other oil, and you can bet that it’s not really healthy. But since the manufacturer’s suggested spray serving equals less than 1 gram of total fat, the company is allowed to skirt past the regulation and label their product as 0 grams of fat.

    You think you’re buying something healthy, and in fact probably pay more for it, and it turns out it’s just as fattening as any other oil. This is definitely a dirty secret of the food industry.

  • If you’re a canned fruit fan, another little dirty secret is the “light” fruit you’ll see on sale. Light doesn’t mean light on calories; it means the corn syrup used in packaging doesn’t have as much viscosity. That’s all.

Examples of false advertisement in food labeling are running rampant throughout your grocers. But what else should someone expect from a government-regulated industry? Always educate yourself about food facts before purchasing foods, and always try to stay away from the canned, jarred, boxed and other processed stuff.

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