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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Misleading Food Labels - A Relook

I have posted on this before but it's always worth a reminder. These days, consumers have to be aware of everything they see, hear, touch, smell and taste. There are scammers around every corner, behind every banner and unfortunately every food label.  People are deceived when they see the following labels on food:

Raised without added Hormones: in PORK or POULTRY. Federal law prohibits the use of hormones for hogs and poultry, so the use of hormone-free labels on pork and poultry products intentionally misleads consumers by claiming that the product is different and therefore worthy of a higher price.

Raised without Antibiotics: This term implies that no antibiotics were used in the production of a food product. The USDA has defined it to mean that meat and poultry products came from animals who were raised without the use of low-level or therapeutic doses of antibiotics. There is no formal definition and while the USDA can hold a manufacturer accountable for the claim, no other organization is behind or verifies the claim.

Natural or All Natural: People often assume this label means organic or healthy. But no standard definition for natural exists. The term only has meaning when it's applied to meat and poultry products and means that the items contain no artificial flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives, or synthetic ingredients. But the producer or manufacturer decides whether or not to use it, without having the claims verified.

Organic Seafood: Look out for this. Currently, there is no U.S. government-approved organic seafood. These products are often labeled as “organic” based on criteria set by a private certification company, or in accord with European standards. Neither of these usually equate to U.S. organic standards for other foods.

Naturally Raised: Meant to mean that Livestock used for the production of meat and meat products have been raised entirely without growth promotants, antibiotics (except for ionophores used as coccidiostats for parasite control), and have never been fed animal by-products. The voluntary standard will establish the minimum requirements for those producers who choose to operate a USDA-verified program involving a naturally raised claim. However this regulation will allow an animal that has come from a cloned or genetically engineered stock, was physically altered, raised in confinement without ever seeing the light of day or green of pasture, in poor hygiene conditions with a diet laced in pesticides to be labeled as ‘naturally raised.’

Free Range or Free Roaming: Most often seen stamped on eggs, it's also used on chicken and other meat to suggest that the animal has spent a good portion of its life outdoors. The rule for the label is only that outdoor access be made available for "an undetermined period each day." So those free range eggs could mean that the chicken who laid them lived in a coop where the door was open for five minutes a day.

No Additives: The no additives label is often used to imply that a product has not been enhanced with the addition of natural or artificial ingredients. But there is no official definition for the term and it isn't verified when used.

No Animal By-Products: You might see this label on everything from condiments and meat (to indicate the animals were not fed any animal by-products), to cleaning and personal care products. This term is used to suggest that no ingredients are by-products from slaughtered animals. This might be helpful when it's not obvious; natural flavor could come from vegetables or animals, for example. But Consumers Union says the label is tricky because there isn't a standard, precise definition of "animal ingredients" and the label isn't used consistently. It also isn't verified by an outside body.

100% Vegan: Vegans generally avoid animal products for food and clothing, and often want to avoid products that were tested on animals. But this label does not have a standard or consistent definition and isn't verified. Alternatively, a Certified Vegan label is a registered trademark signifying that products are vegan--meaning they contain no animal ingredients or by-products, use no animal ingredients or by-products in the manufacturing process, and are not tested on animals by any company or independent contractor. The logo is administered by the Vegan Awareness Foundation, also known as Vegan Action.

No Sugar Added: Usually found on sweet products that have loads of sugar anyway. Why would you need to add more? But it makes you think that it's better for you somehow.

Low Fat or No Fat: Whatever benefit you might get from a lower fat content is usually thrown out the window with tons of carbs and sugars. Makes you think that it's healthier for you when it's not.

0 Trans Fats: Zero doesn't mean zero. A food product can contain up to 2.2 grams of trans fat in every serving, and still show "0%" on the label.

Fresh: is used on poultry to indicate that the meat was not cooled below 26 degrees Fahrenheit (six degrees below freezing). Poultry does not have to be labeled as “frozen” until it reaches zero degrees. USDA meat inspectors monitor the use of this label to ensure the standards are met. But this can be misleading to customers who presume that “fresh” implies that meat has not been frozen, processed or preserved in any way. The USDA does not define or regulate the use of this label on any other type of meat or dairy products.

This topic can go on forever. Check out the links below if you want to read more.

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Dempsey's Resolution Fitness
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