Misleading Food Packaging – Do You Know What You’re Eating?

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Walk in any grocery aisle and you will be bombarded with deceptive food packaging! The Food and Drug Administration regulates the nutrition label and list of ingredients, but the front package labeling has not been stringently monitored. Well, until now. The Food and Drug Administration has realized this and issued warnings to many companies for misleading or false claims on their products. Canada Dry, Lipton, Nestle, Diamond Foods, PepsiCo, Kraft, Dreyer’s, and POM Wonderful are just a few.

Often on the front of the package, manufacturers use words to entice consumers to buy their products under the assumption that they are healthier and better for you than they truly are. Don’t be fooled! The nutrition label on the back or side of the product must list the correct amounts of macronutrients and vitamins. However not everyone reads all of the “small print” so this is how you can begin to decipher their marketing ploys.

The first step is to look at the nutrition label to learn how many servings are in the package. Now, returning to the front of the product, you may see these words.

FREE:

Sugar Free means that the product contains less than 0.5 gram per serving.

Calorie Free means that the product has less than 5 calories per serving.

Fat Free means the product contains less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving.

Saturated Fat Free means that the product contains less than 0.5 gram per serving and the level of trans fatty acids is no more than 1% of the total fat.

Trans Fat Free means the product contains less than 0.5 gram of trans fat per serving.

Cholesterol Free means that the product contains less than 2 milligrams of cholesterol and 2 grams or less saturated fat.

Sodium Free means that the product contains less than 5 milligrams per serving.

REDUCED:

misleading-food-packagingReduced Sugar means that the product has at least 25% less than the average brand per serving.

Reduced or Less Fat means that the product contains at least 25% less fat per serving than the original food.

Reduced or Less Saturated Fat means that the product contains at least 25% less fat per serving than equal brands.

Reduced or Less Cholesterol means that the product has at least 25% less and 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving.

Reduced or Less Sodium means that the product contains at least 25% less per serving.

LOW:

Low Calorie means that the product has less than 40 calories per serving.

Low Fat means that the food contains 3 grams or less of fat per serving.

Low Saturated Fat tells you that the product contains 1 gram or less per serving or no more than 15% of total calories are from saturated fat.

Low Cholesterol means that the product has less than 20 milligrams or less per serving.

Low Sodium means that the product is 140 milligrams or less per serving.

Very Low Sodium means that the product contains 35 milligrams or less per serving.

GOOD SOURCE OF…

Good Source of…means the product contains between 10 – 19% of the daily requirement for the nutrient.

For instance, if it says it is a Good Source of Fiber, it means that the product contains 2.5 to 4.9 grams per serving.

OTHER PHRASES OFTEN USED:

No Sugar Added means that the product has no sugar added to the processing or packaging. This does not mean that the product doesn’t contain sugar.

High Fiber means that the product contains 5 grams or more per serving. As a reference, adults need 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day.

More Fiber Added means that the product contains at least 2.5 grams more fiber than the original version.

Lightly Sweetened – not regulated so it really doesn’t mean anything.

Lightly Breaded – also not regulated so it really doesn’t mean anything.

Natural – unless it referring to poultry or meat, it isn’t regulated so it doesn’t mean anything.

Multi-grain – means that more than one grain was used but it doesn’t talk to the actual types of grains or how they were processed.

Now you can make informed decisions and not fall prey to marketers looking to make a profit at your expense. Part II explains how to read a nutrition label.

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About Author

Sharon Chamberlin

From an early age, Sharon was encouraged to participate in competitive sports including soccer, basketball, track, softball, and volleyball. She has been an athlete and fitness enthusiast ever since. She explains that her parents instilled in her a level of self-confidence that has touched everything she does. See my profile page for more information!

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