Tag Archives: labeling

Packaging words to learn and lookout for!

Foodfacts.com understands that many consumers may often be fooled by certain terms, symbols, or words present on food packaging. This article should help to clarify any confusion regarding your foods and how the impact your health!

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1. Flavored
Both natural and artificial flavors are actually made in laboratories. But natural flavorings are isolated from a natural source, whereas artificial flavorings are not. However, natural flavors are not necessarily healthier than artificial. According to Scientific American, the natural flavor of coconut is not from an actual coconut, as one might expect, but from the bark of a tree in Malaysia. The process of extracting the bark kills the tree and drives up the price of the product when an artificial flavoring could be made more cheaply and more safely in a laboratory. That natural strawberry flavor you love? It could be made from a “natural” bacterial protein. Mmmm!

2. Drink and cocktail
The FDA requires that the amount of juice be labeled on a package when it claims to contain juice. The words drink and cocktail should have you checking the label for percentages and hidden sugars. But beware: even a product labeled 100 percent juice could be a mixture of cheaper juices, like apple juice and white grape juice.

3. Pure
100 percent pure products such as orange juice can be doctored with flavor packs for aroma and taste similar to those used by perfume companies. By now we all know about the use of flavor packs added back to fresh-squeezed orange juice like Tropicana and Minute Maid.

4. Nectar
The word nectar sounds Garden of Eden pure, but according to the FDA it’s just a fancy name for “not completely juice.” The FDA writes: “The term ‘nectar’ is generally accepted as the common or usual name in the U.S. and in international trade for a diluted juice beverage that contains fruit juice or puree, water, and may contain sweeteners.” The ingredient list of Kern’s, a popular brand of peach nectar, contains high fructose corn syrup before peach puree.

5. Spread

Anything that uses the word spread, is not 100 percent derived from its main ingredient. Skippy Reduced Fat peanut butter is a spread because it contains ingredients that make it different than traditional peanut butter. When something is called a spread, look at the ingredients to see if there is anything in there you don’t want.

6. Good source of fiber

If it doesn’t look like fiber, it may not function like fiber. Products that are pumped full of polydextrose and inulin are not proven to have the same benefits of fruits, vegetables, and beans, foods naturally high in fiber. For true fiber-based benefit add some fruit to your yogurt.

7. Cholesterol free
Any product that is not derived from an animal source is cholesterol free. Companies add this to packaging to create the illusion of health. The product is not necessarily unhealthy, but you should see if there is something they are trying to distract you from–e.g., corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils.

8. Fat free
PAM cooking spray and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray are fat free if used in the super miniscule and near impossible serving sizes recommended. PAM must be sprayed for ¼ of a second and the small I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray bottle contains over 1,000 servings! Even then it’s not fat free it’s just below the amount that the FDA requires to be identified on labels.

9. Sugar free
This designation means free of sucrose not other sugar alcohols that carry calories from carbohydrates but are not technically sugar. Sugar alcohols are not calorie free. They contain 1.5-3 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram for sugar. Also, certain sugar alcohols can cause digestion issues.

10. Trademarks

Dannon yogurt is the only company allowed to use the bacteria in yogurt called bifidus regularis because the company created its own strain of a common yogurt bacterial strain and trademarked the name. Lactobacillus acidophilus thrives in all yogurts with active cultures. Although Activa is promoted as assisting in digestion and elimination, all yogurts, and some cheeses, with this bacteria will do the same thing.

11. Health claims
Could a probiotic straw give immunity protection to a child? Are Cheerios a substitute for cholesterol-lowering drugs? The FDA doesn’t think so. Foods are not authorized to treat diseases. Be suspicious of any food label that claims to be the next wonder drug.

Biting into a Twinkie may never be the same…

hostess twinkies at Foodfacts.com!

Many Foodfacts.com consumers are very familiar with the Hostess brand and their wide variety of cakes and sweets. Twinkies, Ho-Ho’s, Ding Dongs, Fruit Pies, Mini Muffins, and Donettes are just a few of their famous products. What some may not know is that most of these delicious childhood favorites contain beef fat. Why? We’re not quite sure, but we found a response from Hostess to a concerned consumer regarding this issue:
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Our Hostess Fruit pies contain beef fat. The shortening ingredients noted on our labels are: vegetable (may be soybean and/or canola and/or cottonseed and/or palm oil) and beef shortening. “Beef Fat” when noted, is a very small trace used in the creamy fillings of our cakes for taste. Also, it is used in a trace amount in the vegetable oil frying medium.

Beef fat being used for taste? Sounds ironic for a cake product. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, check the labels to make sure beef fat is not listed as an ingredients. Also, gelatin is normally animal-derived too, so don’t be fooled!

Foodfacts.com

New Nutrition Fact Labels

Brought to you by Foodfacts.com:
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LOS ANGELES — Uncle Sam wants you to know more about what you’re eating.

The Food and Drug Administration wants to revise the nutrition facts label – that breakdown of fats, salts, sugars and nutrients on packaging – to give consumers more useful information and help fight the national obesity epidemic.

A proposal is in the works to change several parts of the label, including more accurate serving sizes, a greater emphasis on calories and a diminished role in the daily percent values for substances like fat, sodium and carbohydrates.

It’s the latest attempt to improve the way Americans view food and make choices about what they eat, and comes in the wake of major advances in nutrition regulations by the Obama administration.

Calorie counts are popping up on menus of chain restaurants across the country and the longstanding food pyramid was toppled this year by the U.S. government in favor of a plate that gives a picture of what a healthy daily diet looks like.

The struggle to redesign the labels on every box, can and carton has been in the works since 2003, and some of the changes could be proposed as soon as this year. FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor cautions not to expect a grand overhaul, but the revamped label does mark a shift to create a more useful nutritional snapshot of foods millions of Americans consume every day.

“There’s no question obesity is a central public health concern that the nutrition facts panel can play a role in. It’s obviously not a magic wand but it can be an informative tool,” said Taylor.

For two decades, the black and white label has offered a glance of nutritional information about what’s inside each package, including calories and grams of fats, cholesterol, protein and carbohydrates. Critics have complained it’s confusing and doesn’t offer a simpler way to make a choice about whether it’s good for them – a judgment the industry wants to leave to consumers.

The proposed label is likely to produce several changes, said Taylor.

For starters, portion sizes should better reflect reality. The 2.5 servings listed on a 20-ounce soda bottle are typically slurped up by an individual in one sitting rather than split between a couple and their child. The same goes for a can of soup, where one serving is often listed as two-fifths of a can.

The FDA is also likely to find a way to emphasize calories, which many people rely on for weight control. Other items likely to disappear or change because they haven’t proven useful include calories from fat and the daily percent value numbers that show how much what an average diet should include.

Still, some wish the revisions would go further to list information about the amount of preservatives in a food and the degree of processing it has undergone. Health activists say such changes could help trim waistlines in America.

The food industry wouldn’t like to see many major changes. The current label is easily recognizable and adaptable to food packages of different sizes because it’s simple, said Regina Hildwine, director for science, policy, labeling and standards at the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Hildwine says her Washington-based group, which represents 300 top food, beverage companies – including Nestle, General Mills Inc., and Coca-Cola Co. – has provided extensive feedback to the FDA in the run-up to their proposed rule.

“I personally talk with FDA on a regular basis to share views and get information and sometimes they call me,” said Hildwine.

Advocates believe that the government and industry are too cozy, and that food companies are reluctant to overhaul food labels for fear of their profits being hurt.

“It’s against the industry’s interest to help the consumer make better choices because then they’ll sell less food,” said Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. “If the population is going to lose weight, it’s going to eat less food, so that means less business for them.”

There’s no shortage of ideas on how to improve the label. A recent contest by the University of California, Berkeley and Good Magazine yielded 60 colorful new designs.

A familiar theme popped up: red, yellow and green colors of a traffic light to indicate whether a food is good or bad. Another offered thumbs up and thumbs down on nutrients, depending on how much.

Manufacturers don’t think a stoplight system would work because most foods have a mix of nutrients and diets are not the same for everyone, Hildwine said.

“A color-coded scheme would not be as helpful to consumers as a fact-based approach,” she said.

The winning design was created by Renee Walker, whose label is topped by a large blocks of color above the nutrient listing, with each block representing an ingredient. For example, a jar of peanut butter would typically have a big box for peanuts, a smaller box for sugar, and other blocks for other ingredients.

The FDA has long avoided putting qualitative judgments about food on labels in favor of a simple listing of macronutrients, said contest judge and Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael Jacobson.

Before the FDA first introduced the nutrition facts label in 1992, choosy Americans puzzled over a tiny printed listing of ingredients on packages to help determine what to feed their families.

As a result, Americans often relied on gut feelings to choose their diets at a time when the obesity epidemic was taking root.

Dr. David Kessler served as FDA commissioner during what he called a “battle royale” over the first label.

“Every change is a battle with the food industry,” said Kessler. “The food label that we implemented – did it harm the food industry in any way? No. In fact, I’m sure they profited from it.”

Kessler, now a University of California, San Francisco professor and author, says the label is due for an update.

Like many experts, he’d like to see the new label address how much ingredients are processed.

A pie-chart could, for example, show how much of a jar of tomato sauce is from actual tomatoes, and how much is sugar, fats, sodium, water and whatever else may be in it.

Not that all food processing is bad. Skim milk and lean meat have been skimmed and trimmed of fat. Frozen vegetables are typically captured at peak ripeness without introduction of preservatives or sodium.

But many highly processed foods are stuffed with unpronounceable and nutritionally questionable substances. Add fat, sugar and salt, as processed foods so often do, Kessler said, and you have the perfect recipe for an American-style obesity epidemic.

“Twenty years ago, you would have maybe 20 to 30 chews per bite of food,” said Kessler. “Today, food is so highly processed and so stimulating it goes down in a wash (of saliva), like we’re eating adult baby food.”

(Huffington Post)

ConAgra Lawsuit: GMO’s are NOT Natural

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Foodfacts.com would like to report that ConAgra is being sued for labeling “natural” on their GMO infested Wesson oils. As we all know, there is nothing natural about genetic modification. In fact, Monsanto itself defines their biotechnology as “Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.” Consumers are rallying together to take down ConAgra. Maybe this will be another closer step towards GMO-labeling? Check out the story below!
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If you use Wesson brand cooking oils, you may be able to join a class action against food giant ConAgra for deceptively marketing the products as natural.

These days it’s hard to walk down a supermarket aisle without bumping into a food product that claims to be “all-natural.” If you’ve ever wondered how even some junk food products can claim this moniker (witness: Cheetos Natural Puff White Cheddar Cheese Flavored Snacks – doesn’t that sound like it came straight from your garden?) the answer is simple if illogical: the Food and Drug Administration has not defined the term natural.

So food marketers, knowing that many shoppers are increasingly concerned about healthful eating, figured: why not just slap the natural label on anything we can get away with? That wishful thinking may soon be coming to an end if a few clever consumer lawyers have anything to say about it.

While various lawsuits have been filed in recent years claiming that food companies using the term natural are engaging in deceptive marketing, a suit filed in June in California against ConAgra could make the entire industrial food complex shake in its boots.

The plaintiff claims he relied on Wesson oils “100% natural” label, when the products are actually made from genetically modified organisms.

GMOs Not Exactly Natural, So Says Monsanto

Ironically, the complaint cites a definition of GMOs by none other than Monsanto, the company most notorious for its promotion of the technology. According to Monsanto, GMOs are: “Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.”

The complaint also quotes a GMO definition from the World Health Organization: “Organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.”

Four Wesson varieties are implicated in the case: Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil, Corn Oil, and Best Blend. And it’s not just on the label that ConAgra is using the natural claim, but also online and in print advertisements. (Additional silly health claims on the website include “cholesterol free”–vegetable oils couldn’t possibly contain cholesterol anyway.)

The complaint describes the extent of ConAgra’s deception, alleging the “labels are intended to evoke a natural, wholesome product.” And further:
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The “100% Natural” statement is, like much of the label on Wesson Oils, displayed in vibrant green. The “Wesson” name is haloed by the image of the sun, and the Canola Oil features a picture of a green heart.

A green heart — you just can’t get any healthier than that. However, as registered dietitian Andy Bellatti told me: “These oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids, which in excessive amounts are actually bad for your heart.” Guess they left that part out of the green heart icon.

Supermarkets Chock-full of GMOs

But what makes this lawsuit especially intriguing is its potentially far-ranging impact. According to the Center for Food Safety: “upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves — from soda to soup, crackers to condiments — contain genetically-engineered ingredients.” While it’s unclear how many of these products also claim to be natural, given all the green-washing going on these days, it’s likely to number in the thousands.

Specifically, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans, both extremely common ingredients in processed foods. Numerous groups including the Center for Food Safety have been calling attention to the potential hazards of GMOs for years. From their website:

A number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment. Human health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer.

Not exactly the stuff that green hearts are made of. The legal complaint also notes that on its corporate website (“but not on the Wesson site that consumers are more likely to visit”), ConAgra implies that its oils are genetically engineered. The company concludes: “Ultimately, consumers will decide what is acceptable in the marketplace based on the best science and public information available.”

But by being told the oils are “100% natural,” consumers can no longer make an informed decision as they are being misled.

Which reminds me of a great quote from Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser: “If they have to put the word ‘natural’ on a box to convince you, it probably isn’t.”

Misleading Beverage Labels

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Foodfacts.com came across an article this morning which verifies that nutrition labels are often very misleading and boast unrealistic claims, such as “improving brain function.” Many of our followers already know that nutrition labels can’t be trusted 100 percent, however, this can be eye-opening for the few still trying to figure things out.

How well do you really know what you’re drinking?

Savvy shoppers know not to take product labels at face value. Still, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for consumers trying to keep the facts straight about what’s in what they drink.
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First it was the news about how not-so-one-hundred-percent 100% orange juice is. For those who may be unaware of the controversy, here’s what you need to know: During processing, things like orange aroma, oil, and pulp can get separated from the actual juice. Specifically, the process of removing the oxygen from the juice (which is done to keep it from spoiling without the use of preservatives) strips the juice of a lot of its natural flavors. And so to make up for the loss, those natural components — in the form of “flavor packs” — get added back in after processing. Not surprisingly, the backlash among the OJ-drinking set was fast and furious.

Now, hot on the heels of this revealing information, comes word that some of the popular brands of coconut water fail to deliver the “promised” amount of sodium — an electrolyte key to the drink’s appeal as a sports and energy drink. A report from ConsumerLab.com revealed that only one out of the three tested beverages offered an amount of electrolytes comparable to other sports drinks like Gatorade. Even though some may not outright call themselves sports drinks on the label (O.N.E. Coconut Water has), that’s certainly how they’re marketed (not to mention some even boast athlete endorsements). As ConsumerLab president Dr. Tom Cooperman told the Huffington Post, “People should be aware that the labels are not accurate on some of the products, and they shouldn’t count on coconut water for serious rehydration.”
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Thing is, when it comes to finding out news like this, are you really even surprised? Beverage labels, and labels in general, are a product’s face to the world — that they’re used as a canvas to improve the image of their product and make it more appealing to consumers is easy to understand. Of course, some cases are more egregious than others. For instance, how Snapple’s teas were labeled as “all natural” despite listing citric acid as an additive. Or worse, the example of Nestle’s Juicy Juice Brain Development Fruit Juice claiming that it “Helps Support Brain Development.” Apparently, such claims, called structure/function claims, require no FDA pre-certification.

(Huffington Post)

Don’t buy ALL organic?

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Foodfacts.com recently stumbled upon an article featured in Prevention Magazine which suggests that consumers don’t need to buy ALL organic. As we notice on a daily basis, a top reason for buying organic seems to be the relationship between 80% of our food supply and GMO’s. Let us know what YOU think about this article!

Foods not worth buying organic
Step into any health food store, and you may feel as though you’ve stepped into an alternate universe: On those earthy-crunchy shelves, you’re likely to find an organic version of just about everything, including cotton candy and chewing gum. White it’s true that organic “junk foods” are better for the planet (possibly due to less packaging or more environmentally sound manufacturing processes), they generally aren’t better for you.

Similarly, certain fruits and vegetables that are available in organic varieties may be just fine in their conventional form. A shopping guide created by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) includes a list of the “clean 15″ the conventional produce selections that are lowest in pesticides and therefore OK to purchase.
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The bottom line is that you needn’t go organic across the board. Here are some items that you can confidently buy in conventional form:

Soda
A six-pack of organic soda can cost $ or more. Yes, it’s made without high-fructose corn syrup, but each can contains 160 calories (20 more than 12 ounces of Coca-Cola Classic) and zero nutrients.

Low Calorie or Sugar-Free Items
If organic sugar-free cookies sound too good to be true, they probably are. Check the label for artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. If you’re trying to keep it natural, you’re better off choosing a non-organic baked treat that’s free of fake sugars.

Seafood
Whether caught in the wild or farmed, fish can legally be labeled organic, even though it may contain contaminants such as mercury and PCBs, according to the Consumer Union. That’s because the USDA has not yet developed organic certification standards for seafood.

Onions
These underground wonders rank lowest on the EWG’s pesticide-load list. Stock up with conventional onions at the supermarket, and store them in a cool, dry place such as a pantry closet or low-humidity refrigerator door.

Frozen Sweet Corn
So much easier to prepare and enjoy than shucking niblets from the cob, and readily available year-round, conventional frozen corn is considered extremely low in pesticides. Use it in soups or cornbread mix.

Tomatoes
More than half of the tomatoes screened by the EWG contained no detectible pesticides, though they were most likely to have evidence of more than one kind of pesticide.

Watermelon

Just over one-quarter of the EWG’s samples showed evidence of pesticides. Ripe watermelons usually are a uniform color inside and shiny outside.

(Prevention Magazine)

GMO Labeling in California?

Foodfacts.com would like to keep followers updated on the latest news pertaining to GMO labeling, because it has become a major concern for many people. Check out the article below describing California’s next steps in achieving proper labeling for GMO products. Also, for more information on labeling go to Truth in Labeling Coalition.

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(Natural News) Advocates for truth in food labeling will be working diligently this fall to gather enough signatures to get an initiative placed on the 2012 California electoral ballot that, if passed, will mandate that genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) be properly labeled within the state.

The measure also has the potential to set a new labeling standard for the rest of the US as well, which could eventually drive GMOs out of the marketplace altogether.

The biotechnology industry and its allies have pumped billions of dollars into lobbying efforts that have effectively prevented every proposal for GMO labeling from moving forward.

While numerous polls have found that at least 90 percent of Americans support the mandatory labeling of GMOs, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and various other federal agencies backed by special interests have repeatedly stood against it (http://www.naturalnews.com/029168_G…).

The Obama administration has also made it very clear that regulating genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) is not a primary concern for the US government, let alone any sort of proper labeling.

Just a few months ago, Obama’s USDA, for instance, willingly and openly deregulated GM alfalfa without an environmental impact report (EIR) or any proper safety studies (http://www.naturalnews.com/031196_G…).

And the administration has also been pushing very hard to get GMOs permitted for planting in national wildlife refuges, which is against the law (http://www.naturalnews.com/032726_G…).

Getting GMOs labeled continues to be an uphill battle — and it may seem like something that will never happen apart from a miracle — but like every other political effort that has ever been successful on a significant level, dedication and strategic planning by grassroots activists just might be the key to victory.

By simply getting a GMO labeling initiative on the California electoral ballot in 2012, half the battle will have already been won. The goal now, though, will be to gain enough signatures to get it on the ballot.

Organic Trade Association board members have ties to GMOs, thus the organization’s silence on the issue
Labeling of GMOs is something that most NaturalNews readers might assume is widely supported by the nation’s organic companies and groups. And this is largely the case except for a few, including the Organic Trade Association (OTA), whose ranks have been tainted by board members with ties to corporations that profit from the sale of GMOs.

OTA’s President Julia Sabin, for instance, is Vice President and General Manager for Smucker Natural Foods, Inc., which uses GM high fructose corn syrup and other GM ingredients in its various jellies and jams. Sabin personally profits from her company’s use of GM ingredients, and yet she holds the highest post at OTA, a group that is supposed to represent the interests of the organic food industry.

While OTA claims to support the labeling of GMOs, the group has never devoted any of its financial resources to actually making this a reality. So this key player in the organic industry has essentially done little to nothing to actually get GMOs labeled in the US, and yet claims at the same time to support GMO labeling.

Be sure to watch this short, informative video about various OTA board members’ connections to GMOs, and learn why OTA has taken a soft stance on GMO labeling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCK0…

After seeing the numerous connections to GMO interests, it will become clear why OTA essentially plays both sides of the fence by saying one thing and doing another.

Speaking about Oregon’s Measure 27 (2002), Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association said “The first ballot initiative effort to require food companies to label products that contain genetically-modified (GM) ingredients. The Organic Trade Association ostensibly supported the measure, but didn’t chip in financially. The food and crop biotechnology industries raised a war chest to fight the ballot measure. Ironically, some of these companies already had stakes in organic and some had subsidiaries that were members of OTA.”

Baden-Mayer also stated that “General Mills (currently represented on the OTA board by Craig Weakly of Small Planet Foods), HJ Heinz Co. (invested in the Hain-Celestial Group), PepsiCo (Tropicana and Quaker produce a few organic products), and Kellogg’s (owns Kashi), joined a coalition of corporate giants — the Coalition Against the Costly Labeling Law — including chemical makers Monsanto and DuPont, agribusiness ConAgra, food processor Sara Lee, the pesticide lobbying group CropLife, and the junk food lobbying group the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), in spending some $5.5 million to defeat mandatory GMO labels.”

So you see, some of the very same organic companies represented by OTA are also tied to companies that use GMOs. Naturally, these companies are choosing to fight labeling laws that will hurt their bottom line. This is precisely why it will take grassroots support to get the California initiative on the 2012 ballot, and to successfully rally enough support to get it passed.

If you would like to learn more about how you can help gather signatures for the initiative this fall, and get this landmark GMO labeling law passed, visit: http://www.labelGMOs.org

At the site, you will also find access to useful information about organizing and educating people in your community about GMOs, volunteering to help the California campaign, and even starting an initiative to label GMOs in your own state if you do not live in California.

Navigating GMO Labels

Foodfacts.com likes to provide our followers with tips to enjoy their favorite foods. Here is an article we recently came across that can help you decipher GMO vs. non-GMO products in grocery stores:
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LOS ANGELES (KABC) — With so many concerns about our food supply, terms like “genetically modified,” “organic” or “GMO-free” can be confusing. What do those labels actually mean and which ones are the right choice for you and your family? Here’s what you need to know before you head to the grocery store.

With today’s labels, even the most scrutinizing shopper can get confused.

“Americans increasingly want to know more about their food before they eat or buy it. They want to know where it’s made, how it’s grown and what’s in it,” said Elisa Zied, a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author.

“I think it’s very difficult for a consumer to understand what exactly it is that they’re considering buying,” said one grocery shopper.

Zied, who wrote “Nutrition at Your Fingertips,” helps decipher the lingo, starting with genetically modified (GMO) foods.

“If a food is genetically modified it means its genes are altered. DNA from one species is inserted into another species to create a unique genetic combination that doesn’t occur in nature,” said Zied. “At least 60 to 70 percent of processed foods that you’ll find in grocery stores contain at least one genetically engineered ingredient.”

Currently the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require specific labels for GMO foods, but you may see companies point out when they are not genetically modified, with “non-GMO” or “GMO-free” labels.

“Though you might not see it that often, a PLU sticker on produce can tell you a little something about the food,” said Zied.

Something to note: a five-digit number that starts with an “8″ is genetically modified, although it’s rarely used. But stickers starting with “9″s stand for organic and can be found on lots of produce.

What makes something organic?

“If a food is organic that means it was prepared without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or synthetic fertilizers and it’s also not been genetically modified or radiated,” said Zeid.

You will only see the official United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic seal on products that have 95 percent or more organic ingredients.

“If you see ‘made with organic ingredients,’ that means the product contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients,” Zied says.

Finally, when it comes to dairy, “rBGH” or “rBST” will signify things such as artificial hormones.

(Lori Corbin, ABC)

Gluten-Free Labeling

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Brought to you by Foodfacts.com:

FDA reopens comment period on proposed ‘gluten-free’ food labeling rule
Rule would help by creating a uniform and enforceable definition

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today reopened the comment period for its 2007 proposal on labeling foods as “gluten-free.” The agency is also making available a safety assessment of exposure to gluten for people with celiac disease (CD) and invites comment on these additional data.

One of the criteria proposed is that foods bearing the claim cannot contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten. The agency based the proposal, in part, on the available methods for gluten detection. The validated methods could not reliably detect the amount of gluten in a food when the level was less than 20 ppm. The threshold of less than 20 ppm also is similar to “gluten-free” labeling standards used by many other countries.

People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. About 1 percent of the United States population is estimated to have the disease.

“Before finalizing our gluten-free definition, we want up-to-date input from affected consumers, the food industry, and others to help assure that the label strikes the right balance,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods. “We must take into account the need to protect individuals with celiac disease from adverse health consequences while ensuring that food manufacturers can meet the needs of consumers by producing a wide variety of gluten-free foods.”

The proposed rule conforms to the standard set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 2008, which requires that foods labeled as “gluten-free” not contain more than 20 ppm gluten. This standard has been adopted in regulations by the 27 countries composing the Commission of European Communities.

The FDA encourages members of the food industry, state and local governments, consumers, and other interested parties to offer comments and suggestions about gluten-free labeling in docket number FDA-2005-N-0404 at www.regulations.gov1. The docket will officially open for comments after noon on Aug 3, 2011 and will remain open for 60 days.

(Food and Drug Administration)

GMO Labeling

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Foodfacts.com likes to provide followers with consistent updates on GMO production. We recently came across this article that we think will help educate those unfamiliar with genetic modification; and also update others on the labeling issue still going on.

Silk Soymilk and some of its other beverages recently completed the verification process of the Non-GMO Project. Why the careful wording? Given the ubiquity of genetically modified organisms in some U.S. commodity crops — 93 percent of soybeans grown in the United State are genetically modified according to Craig Shiesley of Silk — no product is able to call itself completely free of GMOs. However, Silk and some other companies, such as Whole Foods with its 365 products, have sought to do is to get as close as possible, using a certification process from the non-profit Non-GMO Project, which holds products to a standard of 99.1 percent GMO free.

Shiesley, general manager of the Silk business, says the verification process for the company’s soymilk, coconut milk and almond milk took 12 to 14 months, a surprise for the company, which had always sourced non-GMO ingredients.

“The reason (the verification process) elevates this to another level if that it goes from verifying the ingredient to verifying the entire process,” Shiesley says. “For example, (it verifies) that there’s no cross contamination in the dehullers.”
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GMO in the food supply

Currently labeling for GMOs is not required in the United States, as it is in European Union countries and Japan. The percentage of U.S. processed foods that include at least one genetically engineered food is estimated at about 60 to 70 percent, according to a 2010 fact sheet from Colorado State University. Even foods labeled as natural, a term that has no legal meaning, may contain genetically engineered crops; however, USDA certified organic foods forbid GMOs.

Do GMOs matter?

The answer depends on whom you talk to. Companies such as Monsanto, DuPont and Bayer that supply genetically engineered seed, say the crops, often engineered to be resistant to herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup, are nutritionally identical to non-modified crops. The U.S Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration agree with this position. They say the engineering allows them to grow crops more efficiently and with fewer, less toxic pesticides.

Opponents say the effects on human health and the environment have not been fully tested. They fear genetic modification may be involved in an increase in food allergies and other problems, and they say weeds may become resistant to herbicides, requiring more toxic herbicides to kill them.

Labeling

In addition, they argue that a U.S. decision not to require products with GMOs to be labeled has kept consumers in the dark about how deeply genetically-engineered crops reach into the food chain. Surveys have shown that many consumers don’t know that they regularly consume genetically engineered foods. For retailers with a consciousness about food and how it’s produced, the lack of labeling means they have no way to verify GMOs in products unless the items are certified organic.
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Mark Retzloff, president and chairman of Alfalfa’s, says the grocery has worked hard to verify that the canola and other oils in its bulk dispensers are not from made from genetically modified seed crops. The store has verified that the dairy products it stocks are from cows not dosed with hormones. However, unless the product is certified organic or has the new Non-GMO label, the store can’t verify if cows have been fed genetically-modifed grain. He is particularly concerned about genetically modified alfalfa, which the U.S. approved for use earlier this year. While certified organic milk producers won’t use it, the possibility of contamination through the cross-pollination of organic and GMO crops, as has happened with corn and soy is concerning, he says. In addition, as the genetically engineered seed becomes available, farmers may have a hard time buying non-GMO seed.

“From my own experience at Aurora Dairy, we buy about 40,000 to 50,000 tons of alfalfa hay. It’s all organic. If we start having trouble doing that, it restricts our ability to produce organic milk,” he says, adding that milk is a gateway product into organics for many consumers.

Whole Foods is currently putting its 365 brand products through Non-GMO verification. The products don’t currently carry the label. However, customers can go to Whole Food website and click to find Non-GMO certified products.

“It’s a significant focus of the company right now to work on verification,” says Ben Friedland, regional marketing coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Region.

Asked about the company’s position on GMOs, Friedland says: “We believe in farmers’ right to farm non-GMO crops and our customers’ right to choose whether they want GMOs. We work to provide opportunities for both our stakeholders,” Friedland says.

Shiesley of Silk says the Non-GMO verification is extremely valuable to his company. For the Silk products that are not organic — the company switched some of its Silk line from organic to natural in 2009, Shiesley says because the company wanted to source soybeans domestically — the non-GMO verification offers assurances.

Shiesley says he also believes the label will raise awareness.

“I hope we’re at a tipping point with consumer understanding toward Non-GMO,” he says. “Unlike organic labeling which went through legislation and took eight-plus years, the industry can self-regulate … I don’t think we can wait five years plus with this.”

He points to consumer awareness on trans-fat and many companies’ subsequent reformulations of their products as an example of how awareness can change push industry to make changes.

“We bring 40 million consumers along with us when we go to Non-GMO (labeling),” he says.

Carol Carlson, chair of Slow Food Boulder County approves of voluntary labeling, but would also like to see mandatory standards.

“I think GMO contamination is a huge concern for all of us,” she says. “Anything that can be done to bring awareness to what we’re eating and whether it contains GMOs is a very good thing.”

She also urges Boulder Countians who disapprove of GMOs to become involved in county policy on Boulder County Open Space agricultural land.

(DailyCamera)