Five Misleading Food Labels

My Generation

Day 13 of 30: if everything is all-natural, hormone-free, HFCS-free, GMO-free and free of anything else you might think is bad...what does it contain, exactly?

Published on: November 13, 2013

1. "No high fructose corn syrup!" The question to ask here is whether the product had any high fructose corn syrup to start with. Because like any good marketing ploy, companies have been known to jump on the band wagon and declare their product free of something it never had to start with. Also, if you've been told HFCS is bad because of all the processing, consider this: sugar cubes do not grow on trees. It's all been processed, people. Incidentally, we may see less of this label in the future: Hunts Ketchup (made by ConAgra) and Capri Sun (made by Kraft Foods) have both switch back to HFCS after removing it from their products, citing consumer indifference and sugar prices, respectively. Another bit of info to tuck in your hat: Kraft Foods led food manufacturers in introducing 10% of all HFCS products between 2002 and 2011.

Image design by Erin Ehnle, Keeping It Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl.
Image design by Erin Ehnle, Keeping It Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl.

2. "All natural!" Seriously. What does this even mean? Vagueness disguised as marketing. USDA and FDA have vague rules about this phrase, and manufacturers have taken advantage.  

3. "Hormone free!" I'm going to have to resist the urge to keep saying "seriously." Every food has hormones, even (and especially) milk. Read here for a list of how much estrogen is found in a variety of foods.

4. "GMO free!" Brace yourself, because we're only going to see more of this, as the bandwagon swings near. Again, be on the watch for products labeled as GMO free that have no potential for GMO-corn or GMO-soy ingredients in the first place.

5. Serving size. This is less a label than it is a designation, but it makes me crazy to see something that's sold and packaged as a single serving (think small bags of chips, or even candy bars) list 2.5 servings or something on the back. And when you do the math on that 90-calorie item, it turns out it's actually 225 calories if you eat the whole thing. Which is what most people do. Moral: read and do math. Carefully.


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