The 13 Most Misleading Food Label Claims
The goal of food industry giants is to create and maintain the consumer completely confused. Words such as natural, non-gmo, trans-fat free, or kosher don’t mean what we believe.
1. “Non-GMO” does not mean organic.
Just because a food is certified non-GMO doesn’t mean it is organic. Even conventionally-raised crops such as corn, soy, and canola can be certified non-GMO if they are grown without genetically engineered seeds. There are several snack chips on the market right now which use non-GMO ingredients grown with chemical pesticides.
2. “Non-GMO” does not mean certified non-GMO.
There are many foods, superfoods, and even nutritional products currently claiming to be “non-GMO” but failing to provide any certification of that status. A company that self-proclaims its products to be “non-GMO” is must back up that claim with a certification.
3. “Gluten-free” does not mean non-GMO.
Beware of GMOs in gluten-free foods. Because gluten-free foods are often based on corn, they are usually made with genetically modified corn containing BT toxin, a deadly insecticide. Avoid gluten-free unless it’s also certified non-GMO.
4. “Low calorie” usually means chemical sweetener added.
“Low calorie” labeled foods or beverages, most likely contain sucralose, acesulfame potassium, saccharin, aspartame, or other chemical sweeteners. The presence of such chemical sweeteners is almost ubiquitous on foods sporting the “low calorie” label.
“Low calorie” does not mean it’s healthier. Low-calorie foods, such as diet sodas, can still contain extremely damaging ingredients such as phosphoric acid, a potent chemical that corrodes teeth and bones.
5. “Trans-Fat Free” does not mean free from trans fats.
The FDA currently allows foods containing up to 0.5g of trans fats per serving to claim ZERO grams of trans fats per serving. Everywhere else in the world, 0.5 does not equal zero. In basic math, o.5 is rounded up to 1. For the FDA, 0.5 means zero.
6. “High-Fiber” means processed.
Somewhat like “high-protein,” high-fiber products are often boosted with doses of processed forms of fiber. Added “functional” fibers like chicory root fiber, polydextrose, and oat fiber don’t necessarily have the same impact as naturally occurring fiber in foods, and may cause bloating and gas. Look to fruit, vegetables, seeds, beans, and whole grains for your fiber intake and you’ll hit your recommended 25-35 grams per day without thinking about it, and without the stomach upset.
7. “Kosher” does not mean non-GMO.
Genetically engineered ingredients are openly allowed in Kosher-certified foods. The Kosher certification does not involve testing for GMOs, and Kosher certifications are routinely found on foods containing GMOs.
8. “All Natural” doesn’t mean anything at all.
The phrase “All Natural” is not regulated in any way by the FDA. Any foods, including foods made with artificial colors, chemical sweeteners, chemical preservatives, and GMOs, can be labeled “all natural.” This term is used by large food corporations to mislead consumers into thinking junk food products are somehow healthier.
9. “Low-Carb” doesn’t mean healthy.
The fear and loathing of carbohydrates that has taken hold of health-minded individuals has allowed food companies to run rampant with new “low-carb” products like bagels, brownies, muffins, and more. Most of these items however, contain high amounts of artificial sweeteners and/or processed sources of fiber–which isn’t exactly health-minded.
10. “Organic” foods can still contain a small amount of GMO.
GMOs are so widespread that they have now contaminated virtually the entire food supply. Foods that are certified organic can still contain trace levels of GMOs.
How much are they allowed to contain? “there aren’t specific tolerance levels in the USDA organic regulations for GMOs,” says the USDA. “National Organic Program policy states that trace amounts of GMOs don’t automatically mean the farm is in violation of the USDA organic regulations. In these cases, a certifying agent will investigate how the inadvertent presence occurred and recommend how it can be better prevented in the future. For example, they may require a larger buffer zone or more thorough cleaning of a shared grain mill.”
Even though certified organic foods can still contain trace levels of GMOs, they are still far healthier than conventionally-grown foods.
11. Some “Organic” foods are being grown in heavily polluted countries.
An increasing percentage of “organic” foods, superfoods and raw materials used in nutritional supplements are being imported from China. These raw materials are consistently higher in heavy metals than competing products grown in North America, but are significantly lower in case. Therefore, they are being increasingly used in nutritional products or sold at health food stores after being labeled “organic.”
Organic certification standards openly allow organic farms in China to grow produce in fields that are heavily polluted with cadmium, lead, and mercury. There is no limit on the heavy metals levels in soils used to produce USDA certified organic foods.
12. “Organic” does not mean low in heavy metals.
The USDA certified organic certification process does not test for heavy metals. Foods that are very high in lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and even aluminum are openly allowed to be labeled USDA certified organic.
13. No label says “heavy-metal free”.
The FDA does, from time to time, conduct food contaminant tests on imported foods. However, the FDA does not publish or set any official limits on heavy metals in imported foods. Usually, when the FDA does find metals in foods, such as arsenic in rice, it declares the contaminant “too low to cause short-term health risks” while blatantly ignoring the long-term health risks. As long as the food is not carrying e.coli or salmonella, the food is considered not polluted for the FDA.
What is the ultimate food choice?
Commercially-speaking, food should have to be certified organic, certified non-GMO, locally grown, and lab tested for heavy metals, which sounds like utopia. At this point, however, the best possible option would be locally-grown, certified organic and certified non-gmo. As we have read above, labels may or may not mean much, therefore, knowing your farmer and where your food comes from is a must.
Ultimately, growing your own food is the best and most sustainable option. Encouraging family, friends, and neighbors to create community gardens and sharing or swapping produce would be an ideal scenario for food variety, availability, and trusted sources.