It is important to learn how to read food labels as they can be confusing and sometimes deceiving.
As cliche as it sounds, knowledge is power.
You need to know what labels like “organic,” “natural” and “local” truly mean when going to the supermarket.
It will help you select the right products to buy.
Food safety specialist Londa Nwadike, explains in a piece for Kansas State University what food labels really mean.
“There is currently no broadly regulated definition for the label “natural,” Nwadike said.
“For meat products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a specific definition for what constitutes a natural product, which pertains to the processing method. But for all other products, the Food and Drug Administration does not have a regulated definition for the term ‘natural’ right now,” said Nwadike, state extension consumer food safety specialist for Kansas State University and the University of Missouri.
Though the FDA does investigate inaccurate claims when consumers send complaints, it is still up to you, the consumer, to check labels and ingredients before buying food.
Another label that does not have strict regulation is “local.” Every grocery store has different definitions for the term.
The label “organic” does have a regulated definition. Food products with the USDA certified organic seal have been inspected to ensure that they comply with organic practices.
“A lot of people might still sell things as organic or organically grown, but it might not be certified organic, which means no third party has verified the practices as organic,” Nwadike said.
Nwadike did add that some of these companies may be practicing organic methods, but they may have chose not to pay for the certification.
She encourages customers to ask questions to the manager of the grocery store or vendor at the farmers market to find out how their food is produced.
“If shoppers are interested in particular practices, especially if they’re shopping at a farmers market, that’s a great chance to ask farmers directly how they grow their product,” Nwadike said. “Whether it’s composting, how they test their water source, if they use pesticides, or any other specific topic of interest, you can ask those questions directly.”
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