Companies that produce food products have one main goal: to make a profit by marketing to their consumer base. Companies have realized that many consumers today are actually trying to make an effort to choose healthier foods, and consequently have marketed to that consumer in a variety of ways. I am a big fan of labeling foods so that the consumer can be aware of exactly what they are putting in their bodies; however, there are some labels that can be misleading if people aren’t critical of the labels. For example, the label “0 grams trans fat!” can lure a consumer into believing the food is a healthier food choice. While avoiding trans fat is obviously a good idea, this product could be chalk full of saturated fat or total fat, making it not really a healthy choice after all. To be intelligent, informed consumers we must look past the front labeling that is there for the sole purpose of enticing us to open our wallets. There are strict regulations from the FDA regarding the disclosure of the ingredients and nutrition content on the nutrition label. So before falling for the alluring, healthier-sounding food choice, be sure to actually look at the nutrition label. Then you will find out if those tempting “natural” tortilla chips with 0 grams trans fat are actually a better choice. As with most things, taking the time and initiative to be informed is a much better and more reliable choice than relying on marketing schemes.
Another point consumers should be aware of is labels such as “natural” don’t necessarily mean what they appear to. There isn’t a formal definition of ‘natural’ enforced by the FDA, as long as the food does not contain synthetic substances, added color, or artificial flavor they do not object to the label. While it is beneficial to know your food doesn’t contain any synthetic substances, should be noted that the label “natural” does not imply that it is organic or grown locally or anything else. (However, meat and poultry are regulated under the USDA so they have different requirements.) The term “certified organic” is strictly regulated and can only be applied to food that was grown on a farm that has been pesticide and herbicide free for at least three years. Certified organic means the food was made without genetic engineering (GMOs), irradiation, hormones, antibiotics, or herbicides and pesticides. The label indicates that at least 95% of the product is organic, and there is a 100% organic label as well. So if consumers want to buy products that are as ‘natural’ as possible, they should stick to certified organic foods instead of “natural” product
As a consumer it is your responsibility to understand what you are buying and consuming. It is very easy to fall into marketing schemes by companies that want you to believe their product is ‘healthy.’ It is your job to take the few easy steps, such as reading the nutrition label, to consciously choose foods that are more nutritious.