Understanding Food Labels
There’s a lot of confusion about the kinds of food available to the American consumer these days. The supermarket is filled with so many choices – 100 different kinds of pasta, a dozen varieties of salsa, and 15 kinds of flour in the baking aisle, just to name a few. To make matters more confusing, new products are emerging on the grocery shelves, items saying “all natural” and “organic” and “no GMO’s.” So what does all of this mean? And what should you buy? What’s the healthiest? And what’s the best product for you and your family?
What does “Natural” mean?
Currently, the FDA has no regulations on the term “natural” and only state that the label must not be misleading. Many products labeled as “natural” do not contain artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors. It’s the consumer’s responsibility to read the ingredient list to identify what has been added to the food.
What does “Organic” mean?
The FDA has strict guidelines regarding the use of its Organic label. The food must be grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers and may not contain genetically modified organisms (read more about GMO’s here). Also, organic foods are not processed with chemical additives or treated with radiation or chemical solvents. However, there are a few different labels even in the organic world.
1. 100% Organic – Products with this label are made with all organic ingredients.
2. Organic – at least 95% of the total ingredients are organic.
3. Made with Organic Ingredients – at least 70% of the ingredients are organic.
Beef and Poultry labels:
1. Organic – Beef and poultry with this label are fed 100% organic feed and are not the offspring of any cloned animals. They are not given growth hormones or antibiotics and the animals have unrestricted access to the outdoors (beef has access to a certified organic pasture).
2 .Natural – The FDA recognizes meat that has not been treated with artificial colors or preservatives to be defined as natural.
3. “No Hormones Administered” or “No Antibiotics Added” – The meat producer provides documentation that the animals were not treated with hormones or antibiotics.
4. “Free –range” or “Free-roaming” – This includes meat that comes from animals which were given access to the outdoors, however they do not have to be fed an organic diet.
5. “Cage-free” – This term is usually listed on poultry items, however it describes most mass-produced poultry in the United States, raised in a building, not in a cage.
These animals are fed 100% organic feed and are not treated with antibiotics or genetically engineered synthetic hormones for at least the last year.
Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is a genetically engineered synthetic protein hormone given to animals to artificially boost milk production. Milk from rBGH-treated animals has been banned in Europe due to studies which have correlated an increased risk of breast cancer with the consumption of treated milk. Currently, the United States is the only country that permits human consumption of milk treated with rBGH.
1. Organic – Hens are fed 100% organic feed and are not given growth hormones or antibiotics. They are raised outdoors in a humane environment that promotes a stress-free life to encourage increased egg production.
2. Cage-free – Hens are not kept in cages, however they are not necessarily outdoors.