Food manufacturers are clever. They try to make us think that processed food is just as healthy as unprocessed food, or that a product containing high fructose corn syrup is “All Natural.” A green checkmark label called “Smart Choices” recently appeared on hundreds of food packages, including cereals like Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops, and sodium-filled complete meal packages, beverages with artificial sugars, canned fruits and vegetables with additives. The good news is there was a huge public outcry. The FDA is now working on its own nutrition labeling system, and the Smart Choices label has stopped promoting its campaign.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group, wants the FDA to also crack down on deceptive claims like “Strengthens your Immune System,” and “Helps Protect Healthy Joints!” when, in actuality there might be only one or two vitamins that were added. It also wants to tighten up definitions of “fiber” and “all natural.” Companies shouldn’t be able to brag about having “0 grams trans fat!” if the item contains significant amounts of saturated fat, says the group. And companies that boast that their foods are “made with whole grain” should be required to disclose how much of that grain is whole. It’s often less than half, says CSPI.
Be an aware consumer. Most food labels use marketing ploys and can be deceptive. Many claim that a food or ingredient can “support,” “enhance,” or “maintain” your joints, bones, heart, breasts, prostate, digestive health, etc. But most claims on food labels aren’t backed by much evidence. In other words, no packaged food product is a medical miracle, even if is boasts it on the label.
The amount of money behind these campaigns is colossal, which is why you won’t see your local farmer fighting back. After the recent backlash against high fructose corn syrup in nutrition circles, the Corn Refiners of America have spoken with their dollars and begun to campaign hard on behalf of their sugar. Don’t be fooled by this one either. High fructose sugar increases the risk of obesity and heart disease, and is almost certainly made from genetically modified corn.
With all this new labeling and campaigning, you’d think food shopping would become less confusing, not more. But it doesn’t have to be. My advice? Eat real food whenever you can…preferably food without labels. Shop locally, eat organic whenever possible, find your farmer at your local farmer’s market, or start your own garden. Your health and well being will be enhanced. Promise! Write me and tell me what changes you’ve made and how you’re doing.
Beth Greer, Super Natural Mom™, is the bestselling author of Super Natural Home as well as a radio talk show host and impassioned champion of toxin-free living who busts open the myth that our homes are safe havens. Beth is a contributing blogger for The Washington Times Communities and NaturallySavvy.com. Follow Beth on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook.
(photo credit: The Washington Times)