Most of us are becoming a little more conscientious about what we eat. This is a wonderful thing, however, marketers and food manufacturers are catching on. Labels are becoming more and more confusing and down-right misleading, while regulations are becoming more and more lax regarding the “Organic” label. Here are a few ways we can protect ourselves and keep our nutrition intake as high as we think or hope it is. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but important information none-the-less.
Misleading Labels (read more)
- “All Natural” – Companies are able to add additives such as preservatives and sweeteners which are synthetically derived like high fructose corn syrup yet still have the “All Natural” label. The rules and guidelines for this label are so loosely followed and enforced that this label can no longer be trusted.
- “Made with Whole Grains” – The FDA does not require the disclosure of the ratio of refined grains to whole grains when used in products. Companies get away with having only a fraction of the grain used to be actual whole grains all while having the label of “Made with Whole Grains”.
- “Made from Whole Fruit” – This is similar to the above but may be even more misleading. Companies will add images of fruits matching flavors, however the manufacturers only have to add a portion of some fruit to have this label. Typically we find a portion of pear concentrate then food dyes, sugars, and artificial flavors make up the primary portions.
The “Organic” Label (read more)
There is a constant battle going on between the FDA and food manufacturers regarding the all-mighty Organic label. Originally, the label was designed to classify foods into a natural, self-sustained, whole and healthy category. Since then, the FDA has softened its standards for who can and can’t attach this label. Some example are that farms only need 3 years of non-pesticide usage to qualify – down from 7 years, and the products may now contain some non-organic ingredients yet still get the Organic badge. For now, all organic labeled foods contain NO GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) though this is one of many battles being fought. Here are some important points about the Organic label:
- “100% Organic” – These products, excluding water and salt, must contain 100% organic products. No preservatives, synthetics, or GMOs.
- “Organic” – These products may contain up to 5% of non-organic ingredients.
- “Made with Organic Ingredients” – These products may contain up to 30% of non-organic ingredients, but GMO’s are still a no-no. These products will NOT have the Organic badge.
- Body Care Products – Body care products lie outside of the FDA’s scope for Organic labeling. In other words, these products are not under the same scrutiny as food, and the claim must be taken at face value. How much do you trust the company? Essentially no entity will tell them they can’t make this claim. The products might be made of organic ingredients or the claims are an outright fraud.
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) (read more)
A GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been altered by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques take DNA from alternate sources and combine them into a new molecule; creating a new set of genes. The genes are then assimilated and cloned to create a completely new organism. There are currently no requirements to disclose if GMOs are used for foods or other products. This is why companies have created the NON-GMO label to distinguish themselves from others, although even this label can be used fraudulantly.
- “NON-GMO”, “GM-Free”, and “biotech-free” Labels (read more) – The FDA has recently announced that these labels may NOT be used legally and may begin taking legal action against companies doing so. Their reasoning is that ensuring every product is 100% free from GMO’s is virtually impossible. They may instead use the label “produced without bioengineering”. Also worth noting, the US stands out in the World as not requiring a GM label on all GM foods and is often criticized by European countries for this fact.
- Prevalence of GMOs Nationwide (read more) – The following list shows percentage of GMOs produced for each food.
- Soybeans – 93%
- Corn – 86%
- Cotton – 93%
- Papaya – 80%
- Canola – 93%
- Sugar Beet – 95%
- Other GMOs are currently being planted
- Are GMOs Safe? – While this very topic is under great debate, most people simply dislike the idea of a lab-made organism as a source of nutrition. It appears, for now at least, the US Government believes GMOs to be safe enough that its citizens do not need to know they are even eating it.
Bypassing the Issues
Here are a few ways you can bypass many of the issues and conerns you may have regarding your food sources.
- Buy Fresh, Buy Local – Farmers Markets are a great way to support our local farmers, but also to get produce that hasn’t been shipped from all over the country or another country! Here is a link to find a farmers market near you!
- Join a Co-Op – Many local organizations purchase shares of a farm or group of farms. By doing so, you will usually receive a large assortment of fruits and veggies on a regular basis. Some even include local dairy and eggs.
- Grow Your Own – There is one sure way to know what you’re eating. Grow it! Our friends at Organics OKC can show you how and help you get started. They can help you “Grow your own, and know what’s in it!” You can check out their facebook page here.
For more information, we recommend a few of the below documentaries:
- Food Matters – A film discussing the importance of our food with an emphasis on “You are what you eat.”
- The Future of Food – A documentary about GMOs. Why they came, how they are made, and what they are doing.
- Food, Inc. – A highly rated documentary looking to the corporate controlled food industry of America.
- and many, many more…
We hope this information helps you with your health and nutritional goals.
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