Do you ever read label claims and wonder, “what the heck does this even mean?!”. I know I do! This post is meant to clear up some of the confusion when it comes to some very common label claims. SOURCE: ADA TIMES
Natural: While there is no specific definition, the FDA has not objected to the use of this term, as long as it is used in a truthful and non-misleading manor. The product should not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. The use of the term “natural” cannot be added to ingredients on the ingredient list (for example, a company cannot write, “natural salt”), with the exception of the phrase “natural flavorings”. The FDA does not regulate the use of this term, so you’ve got to trust the company from whom you are buying.
Processed vs. Unprocessed: According to the Farm Bill of 2008, a processed food is one that has “been processed to the point it undergoes a change of character”. What does this mean? While many people consider frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, “processed”, this apparently is not accurate. Examples include; raw nuts (unprocessed) vs. roasted nuts (processed); edamame (unprocessed) vs. tofu (processed); a head of spinach vs. cut, pre-washed spinach (processed). Does this make you change your view of processed foods? I bet you had no idea tofu was considered processed!
Whole Food: Refers to foods that are not processed, refined, or have added ingredients. There are several different definitions of whole foods, but by most definitions, whole foods would include whole grains, dairy, fresh produce, meat, and fish. Basically, any food that appears in it’s most pure form, and which has undergone minimal processing.
Organic (meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy): These animals were not given antibiotics or growth hormones (Defined by the USDA)
Organic (plant foods): Produced without using most conventional pesticides; synthetic fertilizers bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. It is imperative that all farms be inspected to ensure that these standards have been followed, before allowing the “organic claim”. There are also USDA standards for organic handling and processing.
100 Percent Organic: Products that are completely organic or made of only organic ingredients qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
Made with Organic Ingredients: These foods are food products in which at least 70 percent of ingredients are certified organic. The USDA seal may not be used on these packages, but there can be a claim that the product is “made with organic ingredients”.
To read more about the USDA Organic Seal, click here
Live and Active Culture: When purchasing yogurt, always look for a claim that the yogurt contains “Live and Active Cultures”, not that is was made with them (because all yogurt is made with live and active cultures). This doesn’t necessarily mean it has a beneficial amount, but at least you know that there are some live and active cultures. Also look for the Live and Active Cultures seal (below), which represents the fact that the product has at least 100 million viable bacteria at the time of manufacturing. The addition of alternative probiotics (not just the ones used to make the yogurt) makes the yogurt even more unique. Look for probiotics such as L. bulgaricus, B. bifidus, L. casei, and L. reuteri on the ingredient list.
Free Range: Do you by free range chicken or eggs? Keep in mind this does not necessarily mean that the chickens were allowed to roam free all the time. This count possibly mean that the chickens were given access to the outside, but not at all times. “The USDA regulations do not specify the quality or size of the outside range nor the duration of time an animal must have access to the outside” (Wikepedia). So while it’s nice to think that these chickens are 100% free to roam wherever they wish, this is likely not the case.
Antibiotic Free: This doesn’t really mean anything other than the fact that at the time of packaging, testing showed zero antibiotics in the animal. The animal could have been given antibiotics throughout its life, but they just so happen to be out of the system by the time of packaging. If you want 100% antibiotic free animal products, look for “Raised without antibiotics”, or buy Organic.
This weekend I will be posting about the DHA/EPA and mercury levels in different fish. Until next time, have a great evening!