I am a very good consumer. In fact, I believe in consumerism. I feel it is my way of keeping the economy going. But packaging and propaganda about any product or service must be ethical. I think advertising any product will always re-direct the focus of the buyer towards a product feature; but misleading the consumer about its contents or preparation is unethical. When looking at food packaging it is important to know how to read labels – front and backside. Here is my list of the most powerful food labels being used and their meanings.
“Fat-free” labels refer to a food that has less than .5 grams of fat per serving (by the way “low-fat” is less than 3 grams of fat per serving). This is another standard set by the Food and Drug Administration. Sometimes labels also use “zero fat or no fat.” The misperception is that “fat-free” foods are calorie free. Keep in mind that many “fat-free” foods replace the fat with sugar, which isn’t a better option because it still gets stored as fat in the end. You will see in the picture that corn syrup was added.
“100% Natural” does not mean 100% healthy. These foods can be very high in fat and calories. When you buy a product that is 100% Natural it means- no article colors, flavors, no synthetic ingredients or preservatives. Therefore, there should be no chemicals listed on the backside label.
Example of Bad: Ice Cream- 100% Natural ice creams are much higher in sugar and made with more eggs and milk. Of course they do not have corn syrup, modified starches or concentrates.
Cage-Free and Free-Range
“Cage-free and free-range” is a label that should appeal to those who believe in the humane treatment of animals. You may not be a member of PETA, but truly love animals and therefore trust the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate farms. “Cage-free” means hens are kept un-caged, they are free to roam within an enclosed area and eat and drink at their own will. These birds have enough room to spread their wings and engage in natural nesting behavior. Unlike many farm, which keep hens in cages, cut their beaks, force molting (instead of natural loss of feathers).
“Free-range or roaming” means that the hens are given access to large outdoor spaces. This mostly refers to a method of farming that doesn’t use cages, but the amount time these animals are given is not specified. I believe the “USDA considers five minutes of open air access each day to be adequate for it to approve use of the free-range claim n a poultry product,” “Free-range” can refer to chickens, hogs and sheep, but when you see it on eggs it is not a regulated product so you might want to buy organic instead.
No Antibiotics Added
“No added antibiotics, no antibiotics ever or raised without antibiotics” are all interchangeable terms and may be found on meat products. This label signifies that the farmer demonstrated with documentation that the animals were not raised with antibiotics. This term is not a governed by the USDA because “antibiotic-free” has not been approved as a term for food labeling yet, but it is coming soon. Many labels are not verified by USDA, so look for the USDA-verified symbol when shopping .
Organic or 100% Organic
“Organic” refers to foods that contains at least 95% naturally made/grown and chemical free ingredients. It is also used to refer to foods that are prepared with eco friendly methods. USDA Organic certified refers to foods that exclude methods of genetic engineering as well. All ingredients used must be certified organic and state the name of the certifying agent. The guidelines that govern this also refer to the soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control and use of additives. The organic producer or farmer must rely on natural substances for farming.