Healthy Food Labels – What do they Mean?

May 7, 2014

Buying healthy and organic food has become more popular that ever in recent years.  But it’s not always easy to navigate the maze of organic food labels.  What do all the labels mean? Below is a list of the labels and what they mean.

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100% Organic – According to FDA regulation this product can  contain  only 100% organically produced ingredients.  The ingredients cannot be chemically treated or over-processed, there should be no pesticides, antibiotics, food additive or preservatives, as well as any genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) and irradiation.

All Natural,  Natural, Contains Natural Ingredients- These terms are undefined and unregulated by the FDA, which means that anyone can claim them regardless whether they are natural or not, making these terms meaningless.  Some products may contain some natural ingredients, but are so over-processed that the natural ingredient is unrecognizable, while others contain natural ingredients along with synthetic ones and then use the “all natural” claim.  It is important to read the ingredients on foods that claim the “natural” label.  Natural foods can be genetically modified and irradiated.

Earth-Friendly: Products that are environmentally friendly are made in such a way to minimize damage to the environment

Made With Organic Ingredients – 70-95% must be organic ingredients. So while the majority of the product is made with organic ingredients, there’s a whole lot that is not.

Lightly Sweetened – This should mean that it contains very little sugar, but there is no standard for lightly sweetened products and so it could mean a little sugar or a lot or worse yet, artificial sweeteners.

Low, Light, and Reduced – This doesn’t always mean that the food contains fewer calolries, or whatever the ingredient listed.  The FDA states that it just has to contain less of the ingredient; it could be half the fat or one-third the calories of the original version and 25% less sodium.

USDA Certified Organic – Products with this label only have to have 95% or more organic ingredients. The USDA National Organic Program approved a small amount of conventional ingredients because there is limited availability on comparable organic products.  USDA Certified Organic products are produced without, genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge. In order to receive the seal they must be overseen by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent, following all USDA organic regulations.

The Solution?Shop smarter by reading the labels or contacting the companies when you’re not sure.  It only takes a few minutes but it is worth the effort!

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