Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Deceptive Food Labels

Food labels can be a helpful tool to help you determine the value of your food. For people trying to watch their weight and for those with food allergies, they are critical. The problem is that they are often deceiving. I can't really blame advertisers for trying to make their products appear better than they really are, but some food labels are blatantly deceptive. Here are some ways that expert marketers manipulate us on a daily basis.

The word light and lite could mean weight, color, texture, calorie content, or a host of other things. Many people see this on a label and assume it is low calorie or healthier.

If a manufacturer ever wants to turn their high calorie food into a low calorie version all they have to do is to decrease the serving size on the package by half and now you have 50% fewer calories per serving! Speaking of servings sizes. I saw a Granny B's Cookie at the store the other day and checked to see how many calories it had. I was shocked to see it was only 125 calories. After closer examination,  I realized they considered a serving to be 1/4 a cookie. It was really a 500 calorie cookie.

I always get a kick out of some food products that are riding the current dieting or health trends so they label their products with phrases like no "trans fats, low carb, no caffeine, no cholesterol", etc. even though many of these products never contained some of these items in the first place. That's like bottled water bragging that it has no cholesterol or fat. 

Sugars are frequently disguised by calling them a variety of other names like high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, granulated sugar, dextrose, fructose, etc. The more of these you see listed in the ingredients the more sugar your product has. It's common for most products to have more than one sugar source but you may not know it if you are just looking for the word sugar.

Many breads sold as "wheat bread" use the same highly refined flour used in the white bread, but they have added dyes to make it look darker even though it is essentially the same product. You have to watch for "whole wheat bread" on the label if you want a less refined product.

It's always fun to look at labels and see what kind of tactics advertisers use to make you think a food is healthier than it really is. In closing I'd like to refer you to an old blog post by Tornado Paste when he wrote about the family recipe and fresh ingredients that go into a Totinos Pizza.

No comments: