- Following the recent food scare from China, 92% of consumers
now want "Country of Origin" labels on their food, found the
latest poll in Consumer Reports.
- What a lot of people don't realize is that even food
made in the U.S. provides no guarantee against being duped.
- In an attempt to make healthier choices, many consumers
pick food items with the label "Natural" in the grocery store.
- A 2002 study by the National Consumers League (NCL) showed
that 76% of the surveyed believed that foods with "natural" on
the package contain at least 90% natural ingredients; another 80% thought
"natural" products were good for them.
- NCL President Linda Golodner begs to differ: "Products
with the 'natural' labeling are not required by law to contain only natural
- In fact, in most cases "natural" doesn't mean
anything, because unlike the label "organic" it has
no definition in law or regulation.
- There are only two exceptions: "Natural flavors"
means by law that a flavor has to be derived from natural sources like
fruit juice, spices, herbs, etc. And in meat, the USDA allows the word
only for minimally processed meat and poultry products without artificial
ingredients or added colors.
- In every other context, natural means exactly what the
food manufacturer or rather, its advertising agency wants it
- "Food companies can get away with using all sorts
of non-natural processes and chemical ingredients in a food product that
they claim is all natural," says health advocate Mike Adams from NewsTarget.com.
For example, foods fried at high temperatures, resulting in the formation
of cancer-causing acrylamides, are routinely labeled 'all natural' in the
snack section of the grocery store. And yet frying starches at high temperatures
isn't natural at all it's a human-invented process for making boring
foods like potatoes taste interesting by loading them up with fat and salt."
- Just because a food contains sea salt instead of regular
salt, and peanut oil instead of hydrogenated oil, doesn't mean it's good
- Then what's the manufacturers' reasoning for their claims?
- Adams explains, "They can take whole wheat berries
from nature, mill them down and strip out 98% of the nutrients, bleach
the flour with chemicals, 'enrich' the flour with synthetic chemical vitamins,
and then claim their wheat is 'all natural.' And why is it natural? Because
it comes from the earth, they would say. It was grown by nature."
- Taking that as a premise, 99% of all food items could
be called natural. What a scam.
- Some grocery stores now offer nutritional guidance systems
on their shelves: the Hannaford chain calls them "Guiding Stars,"
and they range from 0 for food items with little to no nutritional value
to 3 for best pick.
- But in the end, the best way to ensure you're getting
healthy food is to go with organic food items and even then, pay attention
to the amount of fat, salt and sugar added. If possible, buy locally grown
food from farmers' markets and farm stands.
- To your health!