Friday, March 12, 2010

Demystifying Label Claims

Do you ever read label claims and wonder, "what the heck does this even mean?!". I know I do! This post is meant to clear up some of the confusion when it comes to some very common label claims. SOURCE: ADA TIMES

While there is no specific definition, the FDA has not objected to the use of this term, as long as it is used in a truthful and non-misleading manor. The product should not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. The use of the term "natural" cannot be added to ingredients on the ingredient list (for example, a company cannot write, "natural salt"), with the exception of the phrase "natural flavorings". The FDA does not regulate the use of this term, so you've got to trust the company from whom you are buying.

Processed vs. Unprocessed: According to the Farm Bill of 2008, a processed food is one that has "been processed to the point it undergoes a change of character". What does this mean? While many people consider frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, "processed", this apparently is not accurate. Examples include; raw nuts (unprocessed) vs. roasted nuts (processed); edamame (unprocessed) vs. tofu (processed); a head of spinach vs. cut, pre-washed spinach (processed). Does this make you change your view of processed foods? I bet you had no idea tofu was considered processed!

Whole Food: Refers to foods that are not processed, refined, or have added ingredients. There are several different definitions of whole foods, but by most definitions, whole foods would include whole grains, dairy, fresh produce, meat, and fish. Basically, any food that appears in it's most pure form, and which has undergone minimal processing.

(meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy): These animals were not given antibiotics or growth hormones (Defined by the USDA)

Organic (plant foods): Produced without using most conventional pesticides; synthetic fertilizers bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. It is imperative that all farms be inspected to ensure that these standards have been followed, before allowing the "organic claim". There are also USDA standards for organic handling and processing.

Three levels of Organic
100 Percent Organic: Products that are completely organic or made of only organic ingredients qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.

Organic: Products in which at least 95 percent of its ingredients are organic quality for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.

Made with Organic Ingredients: These foods are food products in which at least 70 percent of ingredients are certified organic. The USDA seal may not be used on these packages, but there can be a claim that the product is "made with organic ingredients".

To read more about the USDA Organic Seal, click here

Live and Active Culture: When purchasing yogurt, always look for a claim that the yogurt contains "Live and Active Cultures", not that is was made with them (because all yogurt is made with live and active cultures). This doesn't necessarily mean it has a beneficial amount, but at least you know that there are some live and active cultures. Also look for the Live and Active Cultures seal (below), which represents the fact that the product has at least 100 million viable bacteria at the time of manufacturing. The addition of alternative probiotics (not just the ones used to make the yogurt) makes the yogurt even more unique. Look for probiotics such as L. bulgaricus, B. bifidus, L. casei, and L. reuteri on the ingredient list.

Free Range: Do you by free range chicken or eggs? Keep in mind this does not necessarily mean that the chickens were allowed to roam free all the time. This count possibly mean that the chickens were given access to the outside, but not at all times. "The USDA regulations do not specify the quality or size of the outside range nor the duration of time an animal must have access to the outside" (Wikepedia). So while it's nice to think that these chickens are 100% free to roam wherever they wish, this is likely not the case.

Antibiotic Free: This doesn't really mean anything other than the fact that at the time of packaging, testing showed zero antibiotics in the animal. The animal could have been given antibiotics throughout its life, but they just so happen to be out of the system by the time of packaging. If you want 100% antibiotic free animal products, look for "Raised without antibiotics", or buy Organic.

Giveaway Update

Coming Up
Tonight Nick and I are going to do a "semi-final" walk through of our two favorite houses. I want one, he wants the other. We will be keeping track of the positives and negatives of each, then reviewing them at the end and hopefully making a decision. I hope this ends well, we've actually been fighting over this house issue a lot lately. This has been much more difficult than I ever imagined. I think we'll need to discuss our choice over a nice beer at our favorite local pub. Yeah, that sounds nice ;) That's what Fridays are for!

This weekend I will be posting about the DHA/EPA and mercury levels in different fish. Until next time, have a great evening!


  1. We looked at 57 houses before finally finding ours, and we fought like mad. You'll get through it. ;)

  2. WOW! Great info! What do live cultures do? I dont' really understand the benefit of them, just that I should look out for them :)

    I'll be excited to hear about the house decision!

  3. Thanks for clearing this up! I think a lot of people get confused by this! Yes..go have a beer tonight!

  4. Ugh some labels are so misleading! Thanks for clarifying a lot of things for me! :)

  5. That last one surprised me; I wouldnt have guessed that about antibiotics.
    Another great post! only eating natural food has given me such an eye for labels. Perhaps my favorite is the misconception of natural or organic meaning healthy; that I get a kick out of.
    And I will gladly take peanut butter as horribly "processed" as it is, haha.

  6. Going gluten free has made me extra vigilant about label reading. I try my best to stick to whole, natural foods like rice, veggies, fruits, and chicken. It's the only way I feel safe! Great post!

  7. We just learned about these labeling regulations in my nutrition class. It's incredible how misleading some of them can be. The "free-range" misleaders really tick me off.

  8. Ugh-- when we were house-hunting, my husband and I both wanted different houses too. Eventually, we came to a decision together, but it was pretty hard!

    I hate the "natural" label-- it means nothing to me!

  9. Great post! I think I knew a lot of it, but didn't know the distinction between antibiotic free and organic until now. Good to know!!

  10. I'm dreading the house buying process with Stephen. I love him to death, but we are NOT going to agree. And neither of us are the compromisers. Oooops.

    Good luck! You'll get through it.

  11. first of all-thank you for the input about BC! im going to the doc on thurs-so hopefully i will get some answers!

    this was SO interesting to read! i didnt know ANY of these differences! dang.

    have fun house hunting!! WHOOO!

  12. labels are such bitches! i hate misleading food labels and i'm always the food snob who says to myself when people think they're making good decisions based on food labels and i'm thinking nuh uuhhhhh.

    nice of me huh?

    please retract your chia seed entry so that i can win. thank you!

  13. Well at least you have it narrowed down to 2 houses. Let us know how that goes.

    Labels are the worst. It is so hard to figure out really what is good and bad. I will stick to the produce aisle.

    Have a great weekend :)

  14. Thank you for this post! I always wondered the difference between those!



  15. The house! Wow! My most important feature of the house...the kitchen. Right now, I LOVE that my sink is next to a window, and there is as much sunlight as possible.
    In my grocery basket, I strive for 70% fresh or whole food (dairy, produce, meat, beans) and 10$ "organic or blends" and 10% whatever the hell I feel like!

  16. Fantastic! SO many people don't know that, and I wasn't even 100% sure on the processed definition since I wouldn't have called tofu processed, although I guess in the back of my mind I knew it was. Good job getting the info out there. I should get this (you said ADA times right?, oh I'll go back and reread that myself, hehe) and give it to my students since they may benefit from it.

  17. Thanks for the informative post!

    I think the processed vs. unprocessed was the most interesting for me - I would have thought that washed spinach was still unprocessed but now I understand why!

    Hope the house hunting went well...!

  18. Thanks for the label info!

    Good luck with the house situation! Discussing the options over a beer sounds good... ;)

    Happy weekend, Gina!

  19. Great info on labels. I don't even pay attention to labels anymore because I don't get them and I think so many have no basis. I even have Eric trained to ask me to look over the nutrition info rather than looking at labels. He is okay at looking at labels himself but he will always miss the serving size and be like CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS PIZZA ONLY HAS 150 calories? I'm like sure if the serving size is 1/16 of the pizza haha

  20. Good luck with the walk thrus!
    I found the most intersting part of your post on the "free range" and antibiotic info. Makes me wonder how healthy the meat from whole foods is.....
    Have a good day and hope you pick a house!

  21. Exciting news on your house possibilities! I can only imagine how hard it would be to decide on a new home.

    I have a question regarding labels: Sometimes when I read a label and then do the math to add up the calories based on carbs/fat/proteins the number of calories according to that number doesn't equal the number the label states?

    And just as a disclaimer, I don't add up calories on labels on a regular basis just something I've noticed a time or two.

  22. Great post! Label reading has now practically turned into an event with all the health claims, ads, etc. You set 'em straight! Love it!

    Good luck on the house choosing! Big decision ahead, but you'll make the right one, especially when methodically thinking it out.

    Good luck and enjoy the weekend!

  23. THANK you for this! all this stuff has always confused me. I mean, i know which one is better, but never really why, u know?


  24. Label claims are so confusing sometimes; it's annoying!
    I hope you and Nick can work out the house issues. I think discussing over a beer sounds like a good plan. :-)

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  26. Oh dear, so this is the housing fight you've told me abt! Why is housing such a headache? But yours is just more stressful, I suppose, since it's not a temporary stay...eek!

    I wish you both the least you both have some place you like...I'm sure it'll work out!

  27. This is great info, thanks for sharing! I had no idea that the "processed" label was so strict.

    Good luck with the house hunt! I know you'll be happy to get that settled!

  28. You always come up with the best information Gina! I really appreciate all of this information. I'll have to jot down a few notes especially regarding yogurt as it is a staple in my house.

    Best of luck with the house hunting.

  29. Oh my goodness, this info is SO helpful!! Thank you, thank you!! I think this would make a great print-out to take along to the grocery store!