How do we know what some of the words on a food label really represent?
The sugar companies, led by the Western Sugar Cooperative, sued the Corn Refiners Association in 2011, alleging that giant food makers engaged in a $50 million advertising campaign to promote high-fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar”; ”natural” and “nutritionally the same as sugar.” The sugar industry didn’t think that was truthful. The Sugar Association denied High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) was the same as sugar or “natural.” The suit was settled but the controversy remains. HFCS has been statistically cited for obesity and cancer. Because of bad publicity or maybe due the shortage of corn, HFCS dropped to 60.7 pounds per American in 2014 from 85.3 pounds in 1999 and sugar rose in the same period to 68.4 pounds per person from 66.4 pounds according to the trade website, http://www.fooddive.com.
The generally accepted calorie counts for the sweets are:
1 tablespoon of sugar is 48 calories
1 tablespoon of corn syrup is 56.4 calories.
The FDA has struggled with the term “Natural” for years but The US Federal Trade Commission definition is: “Food advertised as natural may not contain synthetic or artificial ingredients and may not be more than minimally processed.”
Another ongoing labeling battle involves consumer groups advocating GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). They want GMO be listed on the label of products genetically engineered. The conflict flared recently with the introduced GMO Salmon which grows much faster than ordinary salmon.
Some products are now being labeled “Non-GMO.” The FDA doesn’t like the term “non-GMO” because the agency says “most foods do not contain entire organisms.”
Consumer groups pressured on and the FDA now says it may be okay if labels read “not biologically engineered.” Chickens, of course, have been labeled for a several years with the citation” Raised without antibiotics or hormones.”
The agency cautions that the use of GMO-FREE or NON-GMO “could be “problematic” on labels and recommends manufacturers not use the terms.
And what about “Gluten-Free on the label”? The FDA claimed in 2013 that there was no sure way to determine gluten test methods were accurate. The Agency proposed that manufacturers provide an alternative method for the agency to verify compliance for fermented or hydrolyzed food labeled “gluten free” based on records made and kept by the manufacturer.
“Free-From” on the label is another quagmire for labels. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) produced new guidelines for labels because of the growing number of food producers making “Free-From” allergens claims. The new British guidance covers 14 allergens yet does not address the use of the terms such as “free-from artificial colors, preservatives” or “meat-free.”
A recent court case involving a fermented drink sweet drink listed 4-6 grams of sugar on its label. Tests showed it actually contained 11-13 grams.
How truthful are the ingredient amounts listed on our food labels? Who checks? For example, I am hypersensitive to salt. I know that some foods labeled “No Salt Added” or “Salt- Free” contain higher amount of sodium than indicated from personal experience.
The old saying: “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers” can now be expressed as: “Don’t believe everything you read on food labels.”