Mischief Marketers in the Food Industry. Can Your Food Labels Be Lying?

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I’m excited to write this blog for you guys because I think it’s going to clear up a ton of misconceptions that come with nutrition and food packaging.

As you stroll up and down the grocery store you can’t help but be drawn to the ever so apparent nutrition claims, “organic,” “fat-free,” “low sugar,” “all natural,” “no additives.” I wish I could tell you that these claims have been created to help you, as the consumer, decipher between healthy and unhealthy options. However, I am here to tell you that these claims were created as marketing, so food companies can make a profit. Isn’t that what marketing is? Now, come on, I am sure there are companies out there who genuinely want to make healthy foods for their consumers, I’m not saying we can’t believe anything anyone tells us. But remember they need to make money and I think as consumers, it is important we understand the whole picture.

Have you ever noticed that as new diets appear in the media all of the sudden food products pop up that fit that diet?

Let’s take gluten free for example. Did you even know what gluten free was 10 years ago? If you don’t have celiac disease, you probably had no idea what gluten even was. Now, there’s an entire isle in the grocery store dedicated to gluten free products. In this post, I want to walk you through some popular claims in the media right now and break down what they actually mean!

“All Natural”

This claim is popping up EVERYWHERE right now. When you buy “all natural” products, what are you hoping that means? Is it the same as organic?

The truth is, there is no definition for “all natural.” All natural can essentially mean what a company wants it to mean. It typically means the food does not contain synthetic materials, however, the FDA, who regulates most of our food, does not have a definition for “all natural” on food products. This is currently being investigated, however, food products that say “all natural” are not necessarily healthy, organic, pesticide-free, or coloring-free. Please be wary when purchasing products JUST BECAUSE they say “all natural.”

“100% Organic,” “Organic,” “Made with Organic Ingredients”

Organic food is strictly regulated by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). These are 3 different claims you can find when purchasing organic. They do not all mean the same thing, though, which may be misleading to the average consumer.

100% organic means that 100% of the product is organic. Organic foods are made without pesticides, fertilizers, synthetic materials, antibiotics, or hormones.

“Organic” means that the food product must contain 95% or more organic ingredients.

“Made with Organic ___” means that the food product must contain 70% or more organic ingredients

Organic does not necessarily mean healthier. Organic foods can still be calorie-dense and loaded with fat and sugar. Too much of a good thing is not usually a good thing! Even if they are “healthy” fats and “natural” sugars does not mean you can just eat as much as you want. You can still sabotage your weight loss goals by consuming excessive calories worth or organic foods.

Fat Free and Sugar Free

Let me first point out the fact that an item that claims to have no sugar or no fat can still constain .5g per serving.

Sugar-free does NOT mean carbohydrate free. Often times, sugar alcohols (which contain calories) are used to replace sugar, or more fat and salt may be added to maintain good flavor. And those fat free foods? Yeah, typically sugar, some other form of sweetener, and/or salt is added to replace the flavor that the fat gave that food.

Remember, these companies have to make money. If foods were stripped of the extra sugar and fat that are put in without having something to replace that sugar and/or fat with, THE FOOD WOULD NOT TASTE GOOD. It’s kind of like the difference between Quaker instant oatmeal that comes in flavors like apple cinnamon and maple brown sugar, versus the plain old Quaker Old Fashion Oats that you cook in milk or water, without adding sugar, brown sugar, or syrup.

To put it simply? Just because a food claims to be sugar-free or fat-free 1. Doesn’t mean it actually has 0 sugar or fat. And 2. It doesn’t mean that that food is necessarily lower in calories or healthier for you.

There are so many claims out there, and this blog is already pretty long, SO I am going to touch on a couple each week! Let me know which ones you would be interested in learning more about.

Thanks for reading!!

-Sarah

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