Misleading food labels continue to dupe consumers with keywords and bold statements that feed into people’s dietary needs and weight loss goals. This doesn’t mean all food labels are lying because plenty of products are “fat free” or made with “real fruit,” but what about the other nutritional facts or ingredients? Unfortunately, the FDA does not regulate all food labels and cannot keep food manufacturers from using clever wording to avoid a potential lawsuit. What you can do is read the nutritional facts and ingredients list to find the truth behind the fancy wording and manipulative marketing. Here are 10 misleading food labels to look out for:
- “Zero grams trans fat”
Since trans fat have become the ultimate no-no in today’s diet, many companies have cut trans fat from their products. However, it has led way to a manipulative marketing move to promote 0 grams of trans fat, without indicating the product’s level of saturated and total fat. Food labels know people are looking for the label that says “0 grams trans fat,” but they may skip over the saturated and total fat amount, which is just as important.
- “All natural”
The “all natural” stamp is one of the most abused and misleading food labels used by food manufacturers today. Many of these so-called “all natural” products use citric acid, high-fructose corn syrup and other unnatural additives, but still get to bear that positive label. Always check the ingredients list to know exactly what’s in your food.
- “Whole grains”
Chances are you’ve seen the label, “Made with Whole Grains,” pop up on bread, crackers or rice products now more than ever. The reality is that many of these whole grain products are actually made with refined wheat flour and maybe a small percentage of whole grains. In order to check the validity of the whole grains label, check out the listed ingredients. Unless “whole grains” is one of the first ingredients on the list or if you see “enriched wheat flour,” it’s likely that your product contains a small percentage of whole grains.
Food products that contain fiber has become a growing trend in the food industry because consumers are looking for foods that are going to keep them fuller for longer, help regulate their digestive systems and lower their blood sugar. Shoppers might see their favorite cereal bar or yogurt is labeled “a good source of fiber,” but they won’t see where the fiber comes from listed anywhere. Many of the products you find with the label “contains fiber” actually contain isolated fibers, like inulin, maltodextrin, pectin, gum and other purified powders that are added to boost the not-so-fibrous foods.
When a food label says “light” as in “extra light olive oil,” consumers are misled to think that a product is light in fat or the fat content has been cut in half. Unless the product says reduced fat, “light” is generally referring to a lighter color of the original product, such as light-colored olive oil.
- “Heart healthy”
Many of today’s foods claim to be “heart healthy,” but don’t have FDA approval or scientific evidence to support such bold claims. These types of “heart healthy” labels mislead consumers into thinking they will improve their heart health by eating this particular food. Considering that heart disease is the number one killer in America, this food label is dangerous to promote if it’s not true.
- “Low fat”
The label “low fat” can be very misleading to consumers because, while it may be low in fat, it may also be loaded with sugar or sodium that won’t be highlighted. In addition, manufacturers are playing into people’s awareness of fats and efforts to lower their fat intake by advertising exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t be fooled by a “low fat” food label without examining the rest of the nutrition facts, and making sure that the product is well-balanced and healthy in its other areas.
- “Low sugar”
Just like “low fat” indicators, “low sugar” food labels are misleading for consumers because it plays up one nutritional factor to downplay a not-so-healthy factor, such as a high amount of calories, sugars or fat. Manufacturers also get around saying “contains sugar” by saying “lightly sweetened” or “no sugar added,” but you have to look at how much sugar is in each serving to know for sure.
- “Free range”
The “free range” food label can be found on meat, dairy and eggs at your local grocery store, but this progressive way of farming is not always as it seems. What consumers may not know and won’t see on their “free range” foods is that the USDA regulations only apply to poultry. Therefore, “free range” beef, pork and other non-poultry animals were fed grass and allowed to live outdoors, but their products are not regulated by the USDA. Another misconception consumers have about “free range” is that these products are also organic. Unless it’s labeled free range AND organic, free range animals may be fed nonorganic fed that could contain animal byproducts and hormones.
The “fresh” food label can be very misleading to consumers, by making them think their chicken was killed the day before, or their “freshly squeezed” orange juice was prepared that day. The label “fresh” simply means that it was not frozen or is uncooked, but many of these products are allowed to be chilled, kept on ice or in modified atmospheres to keep them from spoiling.