Today my friend Chaya is guest posting on a topic that has us both riled up: What do Food Labels Really Mean?! Here's Chaya…
I admit it, I'm a harsh critic when it comes to government regulatory agencies with hidden agendas.
I don’t have one, so I immediately mistrust those who do. Our only agenda at Pantry Paratus is to help you know where your food comes from, and to know what to do with it, which is the same as Kelly's “agenda”, too. 🙂
The FDA & USDA Agenda?
With the MyPlate fiasco, the conspiracies against traditional foods such as raw milk (find more info and learn about raw milk benefits here) and natural fats, the allowance of chemicals banned on entire continents, and the GMO scandal, it’s difficult to know exactly what their agenda may be. It brings to mind an all-too-familiar quote by Kissinger:
“Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.”
The demise of family farms, the backroom dealings to permit food imports from China and other countries with nefarious and unregulated practices…whew, I’m out of breath. The list goes on, my friends.
And with these things in mind, this post will seem uncharacteristically kind.
We are going to walk through just some of the nebulous wording on prepackaged foods and how those words are permitted by the FDA. I have read the regulations multiple times, and let’s get to the point—labels are small, words have to be prioritized. The companies have big lobbies and get their way more than not.
And yet, I did find that the overall intention of all of these policies by the FDA was to keep companies from misleading the shopper. In fact, they used the word “misleading” many times in order to say (in essence), “this is the policy, but we reserve the right to make individual judgment calls if you use this policy in a misleading way.”
See there? I can take off my tinfoil hat sometimes. Just don’t get used to it.
What do Food Labels Really Mean?
We’re going to look at 3 very specific marketing techniques on prepackaged food labels: “Healthy,” “High in…” or “Good Source of …,” and finally (the one which I take the most issue): “Fresh”…
When the food label says “Healthy”
You're holding a box of prepackaged food in your hand. Let's start there. Is it healthy? Hmmm, healthy-er, perhaps, if compared to the Twinkies two aisles over. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves, right? We all do it, me included. <Cough>
But no, really. According to the regulations, this is when a company can put the word “Healthy” on a label:
The word can be used if the food lines up with the current dietary recommendations. So, if you're a MyPlate kinda' guy, then it must be healthy. And if you think that MyPlate is trying to dumb down the masses (by eliminating the healthy fats that are directly linked to brain development) and trying to kill them too, then it's time to get that tinfoil hat back on (they're a bit scratchy at first but you get used to it).
When the food label says “High in…” or “Good Source of…”
I have a hard time seeing 19% being high in anything (failing grade, right?), but it isn't based on that percentage alone–it's with the idea that you are only eating one serving (which is what–2 crackers? Who DOES that?), and that you are eating a well-balanced diet through the rest of your day as well.
When the food label says “Fresh”
I think I'm starting to hate the word “fresh.”
I learned more than I ever wanted to about waxes and coatings on produce once when my son had an allergic reaction to the local apples I bought through a food co-op. Did you know that fruit wax may contain animal or insect parts, corn, or wheat? Or that they can legally be made of wood rosin, co-polymers (plastics), or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, a coal-tar solvent, or even…no joke…whale sperm oil?!!!
Do you know what irradiation is or how it affects your food and health?
Back to our original point: is the word “fresh” misleading?
Consider that the food item can be coated with 8 different pesticides that work as nerve gas to the insect world, which will then be sealed in by layers of non-vegan, non-organic shellac, plastic, or tar-solvent…but only after it has succumbed to high levels of radiation…
I think I'll stick with my garden, bartering with neighbors, and the farmers I trust. Don't let the FDA define these words for you. Know where your food is coming from, and know what to do with it.
Chaya is the owner of Pantry Paratus–the DIY kitchen self sufficiency store that educates and equips families for real food. Be sure to visit their store & blog for more great food science & good old-fashioned “how-to!”
One more article on this topic:
No food is healthy. Not even kale. Wait….what? How can that be? You must read this article from The Washington Post where Michael Rulman explains that “until we have better information and clearer shared language defining our food, smart choices will be ever harder to make.” Food is not healthy; it's nutritious. Flour is not refined; it's stripped. He makes several good points that there are so many words thrown around in the food industry, health magazines and by everyone, really, that perhaps they hold no meaning after all. And until there is a true definition of what these words mean it will continue to be difficult for people to make good food choices. (But probably not as tricky for us real foodies, right?)