The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires nutrition labels to include exact serving sizes, the number of calories and fats in each serving, as well as the quantity of added sugars, vitamins, and minerals. Those who are seeking to eat better by reducing their intake of refined carbs, avoiding gluten, or avoiding genetically modified foods can find a wealth of useful information on nutrition labels.
Gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan are a few of the dietary restrictions that are gaining popularity among customers, and these are a few of the phrases that people are searching for while purchasing food. Despite the fact that the language used on nutrition labels has been carefully specified, not all food labels are truthful; in fact, some of them may be downright deceptive. Furthermore, there is a rising concern for the welfare of animals used for food, such as chickens, cows, and other animals. This issue focuses on the food consumed by these animals and their living conditions.
These expectations from customers have resulted in the production of food labels that contain more information; yet, it is sometimes necessary to read between the lines to discover the truth about a product. Some product claims are driven more by marketing than by health, which implies that despite the fact that a product’s packaging may imply that buying the item is a good idea, the meal itself may not be as healthy as it seems.
This section gives an explanation of several terms often seen on food labels.
It should not come as a surprise that sales of organic food are on the rise, considering the concerns around the use of potentially harmful artificial ingredients in food. Antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, bioengineered or synthetic ingredients are not utilized in the production of organic foods, since these practices are judged to violate organic standards. According to the results of a recent Statista survey, 44% of American adults attempt to include organic foods into their diet.
When shopping for organic items, it is crucial to know what to look for on the labels. The United States Department of Agriculture certifies foods as “USDA Organic” if at least 95% of their ingredients are cultivated organically and the other 5% are on an approved list of ingredients (USDA). Boric acid, for example, may be used as a pesticide so long as it does not come into contact with food or crops. Seventy percent or more of the ingredients in goods labelled “produced with organic [ingredient]” are the result of organic farming. The USDA imposes tight regulations on the labelling of organic goods, and food producers must undergo annual inspections to keep their certifications.
It would seem that picking a “natural” dinner would be a prudent choice. This is the urban legend that marketers want you to believe. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), natural foods do not include any artificial or synthetic ingredients. The legislation does not, however, cover the manufacturing or processing procedures, meaning that these foods might have been produced with the use of pesticides, pasteurization, irradiation, or any number of other non-natural factors. The word “natural” does not suggest any nutritional value or other health benefits.
When shopping for bread, crackers, and other items that typically include wheat or other gluten-containing substances such as barley or soy sauce, the label “gluten-free” might be beneficial. “gluten-free” may be a helpful term regardless of whether you must avoid gluten due of celiac disease or do so out of personal desire. Be cautious, though, since “gluten-free” labelling has become a prevalent marketing ploy and is appearing on products that have never really included gluten (such as poultry or produce). Do not fall into the trap of paying more for a naturally gluten-free meal just because it has a label, since this label is generally associated with a higher price.
Products derived from animals
If you consume eggs, meat, poultry, or dairy products, you may find it more enticing to buy them from companies who are committed to raising their animals as humanely as possible. Although the following labels may seem to be favorable for the animals, you may be astonished to discover their true meanings.
The word “cage-free” is often used on egg cartons, giving the idea that the hens that lay the eggs were not confined to small cages but instead permitted to roam freely throughout the day. However, this is not always the case. Although cage-free chickens are not kept in cages, they may be raised in tiny, crowded pens or in environments where they have limited space to move about.
The terms “free-range” and “pasture-raised” suggest that the animals were permitted to wander freely outdoors or in a pasture when they were growing up. This claim is not controlled, and there are no restrictions on where, when, or how long they may wander.
The majority of dairy cows and beef cattle raised in the United States are fed grains, particularly corn. Additionally, these animals may be reared on grass. The phrase “grass-fed” refers to animals that ingest fresh or dried grass in some manner, although not necessarily exclusively. This term is not regulated by the USDA, and there is no standard for the proportion of a diet that should consist of grass. Look for the designation “American Grassfed Association” or “AGA,” since this validates that the animals were raised on pasture and fed grass and other plants throughout their lives rather than grains.
Certified Humane: This symbol is used by the non-profit organization Humane Farm Animal Care to indicate that the animals are supplied with sufficient space, high-quality food, and environmentally responsible production practices.
Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) is a seal created by the non-profit organisation A Greener World. It ensures that the animals were raised outdoors on a separate farm and were not given antibiotics unless they were ill.