Oct 22, 2012
TomAto, TomatOH! Presents: Product Labeling Debate
By Mama S. LeDish
Sometimes I wonder how I am supposed to feed my family healthy food when every time I turn around, there is another product or ingredient that seems to set me up for failure?
In my opinion, it is unfortunate we even have to worry about things in our food that can be harmful to us. Yet food manufacturers are still able to put food on the grocery store shelves that in all reality should have a big sticker on the front that says, “Buyer BEWARE!” Instead, we as consumers are left to the do the dirty work on our own and not only scour the labels for ingredients, nutritional information and data, but be experts on the plethora of chemicals, additives, preservatives, synthetics and whatever other kind of processed and ultimately “engineered” ingredients.
It is evident that food manufactures will argue against food labeling and I understand their side of the debate with a “trust us” mentality. They have taken proactive steps to provide simple labels on the front of food to help consumers make healthier choices. However, with the lists of ingredients a mile-long, it is hard to believe these simple icons tell the whole story. Furthermore, government regulations are only as good as those policing them to make sure they are being followed.
I do my best to read labels, learn about what ingredients to stay away from and know enough about nutrition to provide a balanced diet for my family and myself. Never in a million years did I think I would have to be so careful with something as simple as infant formula. The other night I was watching the news and saw a special segment that investigated sugar content in baby formula. While I breastfed both my children, my daughter had formula for the last three months until her first birthday. It never even occurred to me that there would be sugar or worse, high fructose corn syrup in the formula. I trusted that if I wasn’t going to nurse anymore, that the products out there that touted they were “just as good as breast milk” would be.
Why don’t regulations require manufacturers to disclose the ingredients in the ingredients list? Further, why aren’t sugars listed on the nutritional information for formula?
There are products my family consumes that have corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, but at least when I purchase them and choose to give them to my children; I know that they are there and are given as treats in moderation as opposed to their main source of nutrients.
There is so much research out there on so many different elements of processed foods, food labeling and government regulations that it can get really overwhelming and frustrating. However, in the world we live in we really have to do our homework.
We’ve collected a handful of articles and websites to help frame key elements of this debate. From genetically modified foods, to common mistakes made on food labeling, to education on how to read labels, we hope that this information will help you navigate through the grocery store isles with a healthy dose of information to make informed decisions without second guessing what you buy.
I believe the best advice according to Tanya Jolliffe, Healthy Eating Expert and Nicole Nichols, Health Educator, “Most of your food choices should come from whole, unprocessed sources: fresh meat, beans and legumes, real fruits and vegetables, calcium-rich foods like dairy, oats and other whole grains. Remember that you can’t make nutritious food selections based solely on the marketing phrases on the front of a package.”
This weeks TomAto, TomatOH! looks at what manufacturers are doing to help consumers, but more so what they don’t want you to know.
Dr. William Sears talks about corn syrup in baby formula with Parenting.com: “It’s not too bad for adults and older children to have in limited quantities, but in my opinion, corn syrup has no place in infant nutrition – especially infant formulas.” Dr. William Sears explains why.
Annie Spieglman provides education about genetically modified or engineered foods. “This November, California voters may be able to decide if they are rightfully entitled to full disclosure on supermarket foods containing any genetically engineered (or modified) ingredients, and that these foods need to be appropriately labeled and identified. It’s estimated that 75 percent of the processed foods on supermarket shelves in the U.S. contain genetically engineered ingredients. Eighty-eight percent of U.S. corn, 94 percent of soybeans and 93 percent of canola are presently grown with genetically engineered seeds.”
Sparkpeople.com provides a great explanation of the “nuts and bolts” of food labeling including what to look for on the labels and why.
The next article from Scientific Psychic looks at the kinds of mistakes on labels that you commonly trust. A hard look at some of the discrepancies in food labels and why what is being marketed is not exactly what you get.
For example, what do you expect when you buy a package of “100% Natural Granola” with oats, honey, and raisins? Certainly not “vegetable oil” consists of “partially hydrogenated cottonseed and/or soybean oil” which is produced artificially is not natural at all. Hydrogenation fundamentally degrades the nutritional properties of natural vegetable oils and creates trans fats that cause cardiovascular diseases.
This HealthDay article by Amanda Gardener discusses what the government and manufacturers are doing to comply with food labeling regulations. Regina Hildwine, senior director of science policy, labeling and standards for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said, “Overall, food manufacturers do an outstanding job of complying with all food labeling regulations.”
This article also looks at the other side of the story, “The FDA has not systematically tested the accuracy of the Nutrition Facts panel found on practically all products in grocery stores since 1996. There have been indications that some companies are cheating and there have been a number of private lawsuits challenging the veracity of calorie and fat disclosures on the nutrition fact panel,” said CSPI legal advisor Bruce Silverglade. “There are a number of concerns the companies are not giving us the facts because apparently the federal cop on the beat is not checking up.”
NOTE: The opinions expressed by the bloggers on Mama LeDish are theirs alone and do not represent the opinions of Fifi Delish Holding or it’s subsidiaries, affiliates, sponsors. We do not claim to be experts who have all the answers, we’re just sorting through these issues just like everyone else. Fifi Delish Holding and it’s subsidiaries are not not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the bloggers or the content we share from the web.