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Consumer voices heard by WhiteWave: Horizon and Silk products losing the carrageenan

iStock_000003462088SmallOne of the most common questions we get here at FoodFacts.com has to do with the controversial ingredient carrageenan. The questions take on a variety of forms, but the basic idea is “What’s wrong with carrageenan, it’s just seaweed, right?” The quick answer is “Nope, wrong.” Carrageenan isn’t seaweed. It’s derived from seaweed and therefore considered a “natural” ingredient. Carrageenan is extracted from the seaweed with an alkaline solution like potassium hydroxide (used to manufacture soaps, batteries and cuticle remover solutions, as well as in the refining of petroleum and natural gas). In short, chemicals are used to produce Carrageenan.

Carrageenan, used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods and beverages, will be phased out from Horizon and Silk products over time, said Sara Loveday, a company spokeswoman.

The ingredient has been the subject of criticism in some circles, with natural-food advocates pointing to animal studies that suggest it causes gastrointestinal inflammation and other problems.

Loveday says WhiteWave still thinks carrageenan is safe, but decided to remove it because customer feedback has been so strong.

“When you get to a certain point of how vocal and strongly a consumer feels about it, we felt it was time to make a change,” she said.

It’s just the latest example of a food maker removing an ingredient customers found objectionable. Regardless of whether an ingredient is safe, companies are finding themselves under growing pressure from customer sensitivities about ingredients, especially given their ability to mobilize on social media sites.

WhiteWave, based in Broomfield, Colorado, did not immediately detail when the ingredient would be phased out of various products. But in a communication with Hari that was shared with The Associated Press, the company said carrageenan will be removed from Horizon flavored milked in the first quarter of next year. It will be removed from all other Horizon items such as eggnog, low-fat cottage cheese and heavy whipping cream, by the second quarter of 2015, the statement said.

The ingredient will be removed from its top five Silk Soy and Coconut drinks by the second quarter of 2015 and other Silk products in 2016.

FoodFacts.com is thrilled with this great news! Carrageenan is an ingredient that confuses so many consumers because it is considered natural, no matter how it is produced. It’s great to see a major manufacturer listening to consumer voices and removing it from their popular products. Consumer voices count. There’s more and more proof of that every day. We know that the consumers who are speaking their minds about carrageenan will express their approval for this move by WhiteWave with increased loyalty for their favorite products. And we know that WhiteWave will set the tone for other manufacturers to step up to the plate and follow suit.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/whitewave-remove-ingredient-horizon-silk-25042264

The most important meal of the day may not be as important as we think

222979_10150199008818407_4160974_nWe all heard it when we were kids. And our kids still hear it now. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” We also heard, “You can’t be at your best without eating breakfast” and, “Breakfast fuels your morning.” Any combination of those statements has been emphasizing to us all that our day can’t possibly begin without sitting down to a good, healthy breakfast.

But that’s actually been debated for years. Adding to the ongoing debate about what makes for good food habits is another new study refuting the long-held notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s certainly not the first study to suggest this, but just one in a chain that has suggested that breakfast may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Earlier this year, another team had reported that when overweight and obese participants were asked to skip or eat breakfast, both groups lost the same amount of weight. Now, the new research, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, finds that normal weight breakfast eaters also aren’t necessarily any better off than breakfast skippers, at least metabolically speaking.

The study, conducted at the University of Bath, had 33 normal weight men and women either eat a breakfast (of at least 700 calories) before 11 a.m. or skip it all together. They recorded various metabolic markers – resting metabolic rate, cholesterol, and blood glucose – over a period of six weeks to see if there were any measurable differences between the two groups.

And there really weren’t any big ones. The only discernible difference was that breakfast skippers ate fewer total calories over the course of the day, which counters the image of the breakfast skipper binging later on to make up for the loss. The downside was that they did burn fewer calories over the course of a day. Meanwhile, breakfast eaters were more active in the morning, but this mainly offset the extra calories they’d consumed for breakfast.

In terms of metabolic profiles, the two groups looked pretty close. The breakfast group, especially at the end of the six weeks, did have slightly more stable blood sugar levels over the course of a day than breakfast skippers.

“I almost never have breakfast,” study author James Betts told The Times. “That was part of my motivation for conducting this research, as everybody was always telling me off and saying I should know better.” He added that he doesn’t have plans to change his routine.

Other studies have suggested that skipping breakfast is linked to considerably poorer cardiovascular health: One large study last year, which followed nearly 27,000 men over a period of 16 years, showed that skipping breakfast was linked to a 27% increased risk of coronary heart disease. The authors said this is likely due to the connections between extended fasting and blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin resistance.

It’s worth mentioning that the current study was very small and short-term, and it will need to be repeated with more people and over a longer period of time. It may be that the effects of breakfast-skipping add up over time, and the results only evident after several years.

The bottom line is still that you should do what feels right. If you wake up famished and can’t make it more than an hour without feeling woozy, you should probably eat breakfast. But if you don’t even think about eating till midday, then you’re probably fine to skip it. There’s so much individual variation in nutrition and metabolism that the idea that eating breakfast is either a good thing or a bad thing is getting pretty hard to swallow.

It’s possible that some of the old food cliches that have become standard beliefs over generations may not be as true as we once thought. There are still a few, though, that FoodFacts.com believes might still be worth repeating to future generations. “Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you.” “You are what you eat.” “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” And while breakfast might eventually prove to NOT be the most important meal of the day, we do think there’s still something to be said for it. A healthy meal in the morning just might set the tone for the rest of the choices we make during the day.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2014/08/23/why-breakfast-may-not-be-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day/

The newest great debate: almond milk

iStock_000024341410SmallHere at FoodFacts.com we have a pretty clear idea about how consumers have embraced almond milk. There are many in our community who absolutely adore it. They go to great lengths to find brands with clean ingredient lists. They’re thrilled that there’s a common alternative to cow’s milk that isn’t soy based, that’s not lacking in flavor and is actually healthy.

Now, though, because of a simple article out of Mother Jones a great debate about the finer points of almond milk is raging across the Web.

Blame Tom Philpott, a Mother Jones food writer whose inflammatorily-titled essay, “Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters,” has been raising ire, defensiveness, and amusement since it was published last Wednesday.

“What’s the point of almond milk, exactly?” Philpott asks in his perplexingly annoyed screed, just 16 lines before deftly answering his own question (to avoid lactose and soy, to boycott the less-than-compassionate dairy industry, and to still have something to put on your cereal). He admits that he’s a bit clueless about the whole thing. “Evidently, I’m out of step with the times on this one. ‘Plant-based milk’ behemoth White Wave reports that its first-quarter sales of almond milk were up 50 percent from the same period in 2013,” he writes, adding that the company’s CEO announced during a May earnings call that almond milk now makes up about two-thirds of the country’s plant-based milk market, beating out soy milk (which has a 30-percent market share) and other players like rice and coconut milks.

Still, he goes on to swipe at almond-milk drinkers for being fooled into thinking the following: that the beverage is packed with nutrition, that it’s free of additives, and that it’s worth its price, concluding that “the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.” Which is not quite a shocker to anyone who has ever bothered to read a nutrition label.

So what is Philpott — who chooses to drink the fermented milk product kefir — so worked up about, exactly? It’s kind of unclear. But that hasn’t stopped all sorts of foodies, vegans, and lactose-intolerant folks from weighing in.

Celeb nutritionist and NYU professor Marion Nestle also stands with Philpott, responding to his piece in an email to Yahoo Health. She notes, “Oh what fun. I couldn’t have done this better myself.” Regarding almond milk being a good option for those with concerns about dairy or soy, she says, “Option for what? Milk is not essential in the diet. The nutrients it provides are provided by many other foods. If people like the taste of almond milk it can be used like cow’s milk, but its nutritional value is pretty low unless people drink a lot of it.”

Beth Greenfield, over at Yahoo, raised a few points with a little help from Matt Ruscigno, a California-based vegan nutritionist and athlete (who agrees, incidentally, that there’s some marketing magic involved in selling a product that is mostly water):

Hipster factor: “It’s a million-dollar market — it’s not just hipsters,” Ruscigno wisely notes. “It’s mostly moms and everyday people looking for an alternative to dairy milk out of concern for animals, lactose intolerance, and other health concerns.”

Environmental footprint: Philpott has a fixation on almonds this week; on Monday, he wrote about how increased demand for the nut is contributing to California’s drought. Now he’s worried about all the water in almond milk cartons. “The water that’s added isn’t wasted, we are drinking it,” Ruscigno points out. “It’s not like beef, where it becomes runoff. He acts like it’s the same.” And what about the cruelty factor of dairy? Philpott admits that the industry of producing cow milk is “nasty.” Not nasty enough to quit the kefir, apparently.

Inflated price: “If we are talking about value, we have to point out that dairy is subsidized by the U.S. government in almost every step,” Ruscigno notes. “It’s artificially cheaper. If that wasn’t the case, then dairy milk would cost way more. It’s unfair to only point to almond milk’s expenses and ignore the big culprit.”

Additives: Philpott calls out commercial almond milk for containing additives such as carrageenan, a seaweed-derived thickener with much-debated health concerns, and vitamins (such as D and the synthetic A palmitate, the latter of which is found in kefir, by the way). Fine. True enough. But there’s a really, really easy solution: Make your own almond milk. It’s slightly cheaper, more delicious, and a cinch to pull off. Here are two awesome options from nut-milk-loving friends, one basic, the other a bit fancy. As for the missing nutrients? Make it up in other places. Simple.

FoodFacts.com would like to point out that while it is certainly true that many mainstream brands of almond milk do, in fact, contain additives like carrageenan, it is absolutely possible to find brands that do not. And while Ms. Greenfield is correct that it’s pretty simple to make your own almond milk — and we know many people who do — if you aren’t so inclined, it’s not incredibly difficult to find a brand without additives.

In regard to almond milk being “filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds” and not much more, Philpott is being rather short-sighted. Almond milk isn’t cow’s milk, so its nutritional benefits are going to be different from its counterpart. That doesn’t make almond milk nutritionally vacant. Quite the contrary, it does have its unique benefits. If Philpott looked a bit closer he would find that almond milk is heart healthy, containing no cholesterol or saturated fat and being high in Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s high in the antioxidant vitamin E so it may help to prevent cancer and stave off signs of aging. It’s also rich in flavanoids that may help prevent degenerative diseases like osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes. While cow’s milk is fortified to provide vitamins and minerals like copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, all of these occur naturally in almond milk. And let’s not forget that almond milk is naturally low in fat and calories, containing only 40 calories and 3 grams of fat per serving — and that fat is healthier fat than the fat we consume from cow’s milk.

So while Marion Nestle is correct that cow’s milk is not essential to the human diet, for those humans who like pouring milk over their cereal or their oatmeal or in their coffee or tea who are looking for an alternative, we still think there are plenty of benefits to almond milk. There’s really no debating it.

https://www.yahoo.com/health/almond-milk-the-great-divider-92163928887.html

Does diet soda affect your heart?

Diet coke.jpgIt’s made almost completely from chemicals. It’s bad for your teeth. It might very well contain benzene. The artificial sweeteners it contains might actually make you gain weight.

These are just a few of the problems that surround diet soda. Doesn’t seem to matter though. People drink it no matter how much bad press it gets. But there’s new research coming out that might help people understand that diet soda isn’t a better option. In fact, if you overdo it, you might end up with heart troubles later in life.

Postmenopausal women who drink two or more diet drinks a day are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, and a higher BMI than those who consume diet drinks in moderation or not at all. The Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study looked at nearly 60,000 women with an average age of 62.8 years and found a relationship between diet drink consumption and a number of cardiovascular problems.

Women who consumed two or more diet drinks daily were not only 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes, they were 50 percent more likely to die from some sort of cardiovascular disease, when compared with women who never or rarely drank diet drinks.

The study, which is the largest study to look at the relationship between diet drinks and heart health, took into account various factors like participants’ BMI, physical activity levels, and other lifestyle choices.
A 2009-10 survey by the Centers for Disease Control found nearly one-in-five Americans drink diet sodas on any particular day and around half of those are drinking over two cups a day.

“Our findings are in line with and extend data from previous studies showing an association. We were interested in this research because there was a relative lack of data about diet drinks and cardiovascular outcomes and mortality,” researcher Ankur Vyas of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said in a release. “This could have major public health implications.”

Other studies have also suggested soft drinks can be harmful for older women. One study showed colas, both diet and regular, are associated with lower bone density– a major concern for older women, who are at risk for osteoporosis.

And while people may think “diet” means a healthier product, another study pointed to the artificial sweeteners in these low-calorie drinks as the cause of metabolic syndrome and heart disease.

It’s no secret that FoodFacts.com isn’t a diet soda fan. (Actually we’re not soda fans in general, diet or regular.) We can easily think of many other beverages that will quench our thirst and don’t see why anyone would consume something with an ingredient list that belongs in a lab. Just because it’s labeled “diet” doesn’t automatically make it better and this new research is just one more reason. We’d like to see all consumers become more conscious about their food choices. A little more thinking might just mean fewer diet drinks and better health for so many!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/29/diet-drinks-bad-for-health_n_5051388.html

The internet, food activism and food manufacturers

Internet influence on consumers is everywhere. Online information has changed so much about how we approach purchases of all kinds. We’re more educated, more aware and definitely more discerning about the products and services on which we choose to spend our money. And because of the internet, we can be a lot more vocal about our likes and dislikes – and our product requirements.

That fact is especially true when it comes to food purchases. American consumers are paying much closer attention to the foods and beverages they consume. And we’re letting manufacturers know loud and clear what we DON’T expect to find in our foods. Online petitions and popular blogs – as well as FoodFacts.com (our own website), are helping consumers learn more than they ever have before about the ingredients in the food products in our grocery stores. In addition to a much more detailed ingredient education, those resources are giving us all a bigger voice that is clearly being heard by food manufacturers.

Earlier this year, for example, PepsiCo Inc. said it would stop using brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade and find a another way to evenly distribute color in the sports drink. That action was based on an online petition started by a teenager from Mississippi.

Last year, Starbucks said it would stop using a red dye made of crushed bugs based on comments it received “through a variety of means,” including an online petition, and switch to a tomato-based extract.

Kraft Foods plans to replace artificial dyes with colors derived from natural spices in select varieties of its macaroni and cheese, a nod to the feedback it’s hearing from parents.

The internet has made consumers much more powerful in the eyes of food manufacturers. It’s helped our voices be heard and our demands be met. Online resources have certainly created a shift in how those manufacturers respond to their customers.

Ali Dibadj, a Bernstein analyst who covers the packaged food and beverage industry, says the changes reflect a shift from “democratization to activism” by consumers.

“It used to be that people would just decide not to buy the product. Now they’re actually agitating for change,” Dibadj said. “There’s a bullhorn – which is the Internet – so you can get a lot of people involved very quickly.”

There are no numbers tracking how many companies are reformulating products in response to consumer demand. But even if recipe changes aren’t in direct response to petitions or blogs, executives understand that ingredients can become a liability once they fall out of favor with the public.

High-fructose corn syrup, for example, has gained a negative image in recent years and has been blamed for fueling bad eating habits. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, says the sweetener is no more harmful than ordinary sugar in large amounts. But Kroger Co. decided to remove it from store-brand cereals following surveys with consumers in 2011.

The supermarket chain isn’t alone. Over the past decade, the use of high-fructose corn syrup in packaged foods and drinks has fallen 18 percent to 6.1 million tons last year, according to market researcher Euromonitor International.

Not all companies are making changes, at least not right away. The same teenager who called for the removal of brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade, for instance, is now taking aim at Coca-Cola’s Powerade, which also contains the ingredient in select varieties. As of Tuesday, her newest petition had more than 57,000 supporters.

In a statement, Coca-Cola noted that all its ingredients comply with regulations. But the company also said it is “always looking for ways to evolve” its formulas.

Another petition that asks Mars Inc. to remove artificial colors from M&Ms had more than 141,000 signatures. In an emailed statement, the privately held company stressed the safety of its ingredients.

As the internet continues to evolve, it places more and more power into the hands of the consumer. No manufacturer likes bad press. And news travels very quickly through online channels. Food manufacturers are adapting to the idea that our opinions are more influential than ever and that our voices can be heard quickly by millions. That’s all good news for us, as we continue to express our nutritional and ingredient requirements to the food industry.

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=H9WkyLl7

A glass of wine a day may help keep depression away

FoodFacts.com has reported in the past on the links between moderate red wine consumption and a variety of health benefits. We’ve seen how red wine may help lower our risks for cardiovascular problems. In addition, moderate consumption may help lower cholesterol levels and help control blood sugar levels. But now, new research suggests that wine may also help reduce the risk for depression. This is according to a study published in the journal of BMC Medicine.

Researchers from Spain analyzed 2,683 men and 2,822 women over a 7-year period from the PREDIMED Trial – a study that conducts research around nutrition and cardiovascular risk.

All participants were between 55 and 80 years of age, with no history of depression or alcohol-related problems when the study began.

They were required to complete a validated 137-item food frequency questionnaire annually in order to assess their alcohol intake, and their mental health and lifestyle was analyzed throughout the study period.

The findings of the study revealed that those who drank moderate amounts of alcohol (5 to 15 g a day) were less likely to suffer from depression. Additionally, those who drank a moderate amount of wine on a weekly basis (two to seven small glasses a week), were found to have an even lower risk of depression. The researchers say these results remained the same even when accounting for lifestyle and social factors, such as marital status, smoking and diet.

However, further findings suggest that wine consumption exceeding seven glasses a week could increase the risk of depression. The study authors add that greater alcohol consumption was more frequently attributed to males, with 88% drinking more than 15 g of alcohol each day.

Previous research from the PREDIMED trial has suggested that low-moderate amounts of alcohol could protect against heart disease, and the study authors say the process may be linked: Unipolar depression and cardiovascular disease are likely to share some common pathophysiological mechanisms. Moderate alcohol intake, especially alcohol from wine, has been repeatedly reported to be inversely associated with the incidence of cardiovascular disease. Some of the responsible mechanisms for this inverse association are likely to be involved also in a reduced risk of depression.

Once again, FoodFacts.com is reminded that wine is an art, developed to be enjoyed in moderation – whose gift is a wide array of health benefits. While this new information certainly sets defined parameters for consumption, it also allows us to add another valuable item to the list of health benefits we can derive from the moderate and considered enjoyment of wine!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265401.php

Smart Snacks in School initiative announced by the USDA

FoodFacts.com followed the first phase of the new USDA school cafeteria standards last summer, as public schools throughout the United States revamped their menu offerings for our children. New menus offered meals with reduced sodium content, less saturated fat and trans fat. In addition whole grains became standard and fat-free and low-fat milk products replaced their full-fat counterparts. Today, the USDA announced phase two of their healthier school cafeteria efforts, Smart Snacks in School.

These new nutrition standards extend the original efforts, replacing candy bars and potato chips in school cafeterias with granola bars and baked chips.

In 2010, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act removed junk foods and high calorie beverages from school vending machines. Subsequently, the USDA set up nutrition standards for all foods sold in American schools. The new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards will be published later this week in the Federal Register.

The new standards are based on existing standards implemented in thousands of schools across the country and recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. The aim of the new nutrition standards is to promote much healthier eating in American schools.

The “Smart Snacks in School” plans include:
- Encouraging healthier foods, such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains low in fat.
- Providing food items that give children all the nutrients they need, ensuring they are low in fats, sugars and sodium.
- Varying standards, such as portion size and caffeine content, according to age group.
- Allowing parents to still make packed lunches for their children and certain school traditions, like bake sales.
- Giving school food and drink companies a full year to make the changes. The USDA will offer help in training and technical assistance.
- Ensuring that the standards are only implemented and enforced on school campuses during normal school hours. Food and drinks sold on campus during special events after school hours don’t need to follow the new guidelines.
- Allowing states and schools that already have stricter policies to maintain them.
The USDA says it is doing its best to improve the nutritional standards of the food kids are eating in schools, as well as providing families with advice on what a healthy meal is. This policy and those like it are aimed at helping the childhood obesity epidemic.

FoodFacts.com is encouraged by the steps the USDA has taken to improve the quality and nutritional value of the foods made available to our children in schools. We are pleased to see new initiatives that continue the strides that have already been made to help our children make healthier food choices during their school day. It has always been FoodFacts.com’s mission to bring greater nutritional awareness to every generation. While the USDA is taking much-needed actions to improve nutritional quality of the foods served in our schools, educated consumers everywhere can help spread nutritional awareness to every generation of our population. Helping our kids understand what’s on nutrition labels and ingredient lists for the products they consume will help take the USDA’s initiatives even further.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262609.php

Proposed ban on large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages may impact our population in a positive way

FoodFacts.com has been following the proposed ban on the sale of large-sized sugary beverages in New York and bringing our community any news we can find on this controversial proposition. There are many conflicting opinions about the proposed legislation, but in March, the New York State Supreme Court struck down the plan. It is currently under appeal.

While the issue is being pondered by the judges, further research into the effects of such a ban nationwide is being conducted. Coming out of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, one such study presents much food for thought on the subject.

The research is showing that the restriction of the consumption of large sugar-sweetened beverages would affect 7.5% of Americans on any given day … and an even larger percentage among those who are overweight. This would include 13.6% of overweight teenagers. The study also points out that such restrictions would not discriminate against the poor, finding that low-income individuals would not be disproportionately affected.

This study analyzed national data. Researchers note that the results suggests that bans of this nature would be a strong measure in obesity prevention even if they are implemented in various regions, instead of across the nation. Over 19,000 dietary records from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from the years 2007 through 2010 were analyzed.

60.5% of Americans consumed sugary drinks on a daily basis. 7.5% purchased those drinks from food establishments in 16 ounce or larger portions on any given day. That figure rose to 8.6% among those who are overweight. This increased again to 13.6% among overweight teenagers.

Since the legislation has not been passed, the researchers do not yet have a model for the scope of change it might actually cause. If passed, consumers would be free to drink sugary beverages in smaller sizes as much as they would like. Restaurants would seem to have the option of offering free refills or discounts on refills. But these assumptions aren’t certain, so the researchers used different scenarios to estimate how the policy might cut calories and consumption.

They propose that reasonably, 80% of large-sized sugary-beverage drinkers would downsize to a 16-ounce sized portion and that 20% may consume two drinks of that size. In this scenario, adults would cut 63 calories from their diets daily and children and teens would cut 58 calories. Both groups would remove three to four teaspoons of sugar from their daily consumption.

Simple calorie reductions like these can have a tremendous effect on excess calories consumed by Americans – especially our nation’s teens.

Another recent study coming out of Harvard has illustrated that teenagers are more likely to underestimate the calories they are consuming from fast food restaurant offerings. While soda consumption was not a specific focus of this study, the findings do underscore the propensity of teens towards more caloric fast food options.

The researchers also feel that the portion size restrictions in food establishments could influence behaviors within American homes (where most sugary beverages are actually consumed). Keep in mind that at McDonald’s, a 12-ounce beverage is child-sized, 16-ounce drinks are small, 21-ounce drinks are actually medium and 32 ounces are large-sized. It’s very possible that those serving sizes are, in fact, causing us to pour larger servings automatically when we’re in our own kitchens. Between the years 1999 and 2004, an average American teenager consumed 301 calories in sugar-sweetened beverages every day. That’s 13% of their total daily calories. In order to burn those 301 calories, they would need to walk more than five miles.

While the debate regarding the proposed ban on large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages continues in the New York Supreme Court, studies like this certainly raise some important points and possibilities. It gives us all another viewpoint to ponder as we await a final decision. FoodFacts.com will continue to keep you up to date on important news on this significant issue and its nationwide implications.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/261902.php
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57586093/teens-most-guilty-of-underestimating-calories-in-fast-food-study-reveals/

Consumer perception of organic labels … the “Health Halo Effect”

FoodFacts.com consistently adds organic food products to our database. There are so many reasons for consumers to consider organic alternatives to common food products … organics generally don’t contain controversial ingredients or genetically modified ingredients. In addition, many organic products contain less calories, fats, sugar and sodium than their traditional counterparts. That’s not to say, however, that we should refrain from reading labels for organic products. There are those that aren’t stellar … and even some whose non-organic counterparts present consumers with better choices. We’re stalwart label readers. And we encourage our community to follow suit. We are concerned that the word “organic” can automatically lead consumers to relate a product with a healthy option.

An organic food label can be a very powerful persuader in consumer purchasing decisions. This has been dubbed the “Health Halo Effect.” Consumers can be biased towards organic products simply because they are labeled organic. A new study from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab has now shown that an organic label can have even greater influence than previously thought. Not only can consumers relate organic products to health. Those labels can also significantly alter the consumers’ view of a products taste, calorie content and nutritional value.

Researchers recruited 115 participants from a shopping mall in Ithaca, New York for the study. The participants were each presented with three pairs of products – two yogurt products, two cookie products and two potato chip products. They had labeled one product from each pair as organic, while the other was labeled “regular”. The participants were actually tricked. Every product they were presented with was, in fact, organic. In fact the pairs were actually identical products. Participants were asked to rate the taste of each item, as well as estimate the calorie count for each. They were also asked how much they would be willing to pay for each product sampled. A questionnaire was given to each that inquired about their environmental and shopping habits.

Even though these foods were all the same, the “organic” label greatly influenced people’s perceptions. The participants all estimated that the cookie and yogurt products that were labeled organic had significantly fewer calories than the “regular” products. People stated that they were willing to pay over 23% more for those products labeled organic. In addition to their assumptions regarding the caloric content of the organic products, participants said that these products tasted like they were lower in fat than those that were labeled “regular”. They told the research that all the products labeled as “organic” were more nutritious than those labeled “regular” – even the cookies and chips. The yogurt was judged to be more flavorful when labeled organic and the chips appeared to be more appetizing. “Regular” cookies were reported to taste better – possibly because people often believe healthy foods are not tasty. The products , labeled as organic were obviously wearing a “Health Halo”, since the foods labeled as “regular” weren’t regular at all.

The questionnaire helped to better determine who is most susceptible to this “Health Halo” effect. People who regularly read nutrition labels, regularly purchase organic foods and exhibit pro-environmental behaviors like recycling were less susceptible to the organic “Health Halo” effect. Those consumers whose habits did not include these actions were more prone to believe that the products were completely different and that the organic product had to be better simply because it was labeled as “organic”.

FoodFacts.com finds this information somewhat troubling. Not all organic products are created equally. While most are, in fact, superior to their non-organic counterparts, consumers still need to read labels to be certain of the ingredients and nutritional value of every product they consume. Reading and understanding food labels is key to a healthy diet and should be a habit to which every consumer commits, regardless of the words they find on a package.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/258507.php

10 ways food labels mislead consumers

Day after day we learn more about how misleading food labels continue to dupe consumers with keywords and bold statements that feed into people’s dietary needs and weight loss goals. This doesn’t mean all food labels are lying because plenty of products are “fat free” or made with “real fruit,” but what about the other nutritional facts or ingredients?

Foodfacts.com observes that, unfortunately, the FDA does not regulate all food labels and cannot keep food manufacturers from using clever wording to avoid a potential lawsuit. What you can do is read the nutritional facts and ingredients list to find the truth behind the fancy wording and manipulative marketing. Here are 10 misleading food labels to look out for:

* “Zero grams trans fat”
Since trans fat have become the ultimate no-no in today’s diet, many companies have cut trans fat from their products. However, it has led way to a manipulative marketing move to promote 0 grams of trans fat, without indicating the product’s level of saturated and total fat. Food labels know people are looking for the label that says “0 grams trans fat,” but they may skip over the saturated and total fat amount, which is just as important.

* “All natural”
The “all natural” stamp is one of the most abused and misleading food labels used by food manufacturers today. Many of these so-called “all natural” products use citric acid, high-fructose corn syrup and other unnatural additives, but still get to bear that positive label. Always check the ingredients list to know exactly what’s in your food.

* “Whole grains”
Chances are you’ve seen the label, “Made with Whole Grains,” pop up on bread, crackers or rice products now more than ever. The reality is that many of these whole grain products are actually made with refined wheat flour and maybe a small percentage of whole grains. In order to check the validity of the whole grains label, check out the listed ingredients. Unless “whole grains” is one of the first ingredients on the list or if you see “enriched wheat flour,” it’s likely that your product contains a small percentage of whole grains.

* “Fiber”
Food products that contain fiber has become a growing trend in the food industry because consumers are looking for foods that are going to keep them fuller for longer, help regulate their digestive systems and lower their blood sugar. Shoppers might see their favorite cereal bar or yogurt is labeled “a good source of fiber,” but they won’t see where the fiber comes from listed anywhere. Many of the products you find with the label “contains fiber” actually contain isolated fibers, like inulin, maltodextrin, pectin, gum and other purified powders that are added to boost the not-so-fibrous foods.

* “Light”
When a food label says “light” as in “extra light olive oil,” consumers are misled to think that a product is light in fat or the fat content has been cut in half. Unless the product says reduced fat, “light” is generally referring to a lighter color of the original product, such as light-colored olive oil.

* “Heart healthy”
Many of today’s foods claim to be “heart healthy,” but don’t have FDA approval or scientific evidence to support such bold claims. These types of “heart healthy” labels mislead consumers into thinking they will improve their heart health by eating this particular food. Considering that heart disease is the number one killer in America, this food label is dangerous to promote if it’s not true.

* “Low fat”
The label “low fat” can be very misleading to consumers because, while it may be low in fat, it may also be loaded with sugar or sodium that won’t be highlighted. In addition, manufacturers are playing into people’s awareness of fats and efforts to lower their fat intake by advertising exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t be fooled by a “low fat” food label without examining the rest of the nutrition facts, and making sure that the product is well-balanced and healthy in its other areas.

* “Low sugar”
Just like “low fat” indicators, “low sugar” food labels are misleading for consumers because it plays up one nutritional factor to downplay a not-so-healthy factor, such as a high amount of calories, sugars or fat. Manufacturers also get around saying “contains sugar” by saying “lightly sweetened” or “no sugar added,” but you have to look at how much sugar is in each serving to know for sure.

* “Free range”
The “free range” food label can be found on meat, dairy and eggs at your local grocery store, but this progressive way of farming is not always as it seems. What consumers may not know and won’t see on their “free range” foods is that the USDA regulations only apply to poultry. Therefore, “free range” beef, pork and other non-poultry animals were fed grass and allowed to live outdoors, but their products are not regulated by the USDA. Another misconception consumers have about “free range” is that these products are also organic. Unless it’s labeled free range AND organic, free range animals may be fed nonorganic fed that could contain animal byproducts and hormones.

* “Fresh”
The “fresh” food label can be very misleading to consumers, by making them think their chicken was killed the day before, or their “freshly squeezed” orange juice was prepared that day. The label “fresh” simply means that it was not frozen or is uncooked, but many of these products are allowed to be chilled, kept on ice or in modified atmospheres to keep them from spoiling.

Foodfacts.com does not endorse specific views about nutrition or exercise, but presents interesting news and information worth reading about. As always, consult a physician or nutrition professional before making any major changes to your diet. Be sure to SCORE your foods so that you’re empowered to make good food choices. The Food Facts Health Score is FREE to use with your free membership at Foodfacts.com.