When Food Labels Don’t Tell the Whole Truth

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Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yeknom02/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yeknom02/

Every day in homes across the U.S., consumers consult food packaging to determine what they are eating. At restaurants and fast-food establishments, nutritional information is posted and read. Consumers depend on the labels to select the best option for them, whether this be the lowest calories, least processed, or “healthiest.” The labels and claims adhere to guidance set by the United States Department of Agriculture (or, USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (or, FDA).

But this guidance can fall into a labeling grey area; “organic,” and “natural” are two terms that can exist in this ether. “Organic” has tiers, and different restrictions apply to each. At the entry level is the use of organic ingredients. If a product wants to display “made with” organic ingredients, 70 percent of those listed must be certified organic, and the remaining 30 percent of the product does not have to comply.

Next is the term “organic,” which can use the USDA’s organic seal, but 5 percent of the product may be composed of non-organic items. The label “100 percent Organic” is the only one that requires all ingredients to be certified organic and that any processing that takes place must adhere to organic standards.

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