Sunday, February 6, 2011
Food Label Lies - Don't Believe The Claims!!
Many parents are very alert to what they are feeding their children and when labels lead them to believe that products are healthy it's likely they will choose these items over those not claiming health boosting properties. As with all things - there is often more to the story than what's on the cover. A recent study conducted by the Prevention Institute - "Claiming Health: Front-of-Package Labeling of Children's Food" - revealed that of 58 "healthy" children's food products 84%, (8 in 10), of them were NOT so healthy... Here are just some of the "highlights":
- 95% of the products reviewed contained added sugar with 57% of them qualifying as high sugar.
- Over 53% of the products contained no fruits or vegetables and were low in fiber.
- 21% of foods contained artificial colors (additives with potentially harmful effects).
These findings compounded with recent warnings and/or lawsuits against Cheerios regarding cholesterol lowering properties and Rice Krispies claiming to enhance immunity go to illustrate the importance of reading beyond the front of the package; or better yet, feed your children and family foods that don't come in a package!
Okay, quiz time! What do these foods have in common: Total Pomegranate Blueberry Cereal, Betty Crocker Blueberry Muffins, Kelloggs Blueberry Poptarts, Kelloggs Blueberry Muffin Frosted Mini-Wheats, and Special K Blueberry Fruit Crisps? If you answered blueberries you are WRONG!! Even though the product name says 'blueberry' and the packages hold pictures of the fruit - there are absolutely NO blueberries in these foods! In fact Betty Crocker's blueberries are a less than wholesome mixture of dextrose, corn flour, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, sugar, citric acid, artificial flavor, blue #1, and red #40. The Special K Fruit Crisps version of a blueberry looks like this - apple powder (hey at least there's some fruit - right??), partially hydrogenated soybean oil, fructose, sugar, red #40, and blue #1. On the plus side, these crisps are enhanced with a bit of blueberry puree concentrate... And the Total Pomegranate Blueberry Cereal - you guessed it! Not a pomegranate OR blueberry to be found.
To further drive this point home below are ingredient labels from two foods. Look at the labels and decide which you would rather eat and which is healthier (neither is ideal from a 'real food' perspective - but we're making a point here...) I will reveal the product identities at the end of the post.
Label #1: Brown rice syrup, corn syrup, sodium caseinate, rolled oats, raisins, soy protein isolate, oatmeal cinnamon streusel (brown sugar, unbleached and unenriched wheat flour, oats, palm oil, cinnamon, salt, sodium bicarbonate, natural flavor, nutmeg emulsion), fructose syrup, whey protein isolate, yogurt-flavored coating (sugar. palm kernel oil, nonfat dry milk solids, yogurt powder [cultured whey protein concentrate, cultured skim milk, yogurt culture], soy lecithin, salt, natural flavor), roasted soybeans, butter powder (butter [cream, salt], nonfat milk, tocopherols, ascorbyl palmitate), glycerin, pasteurized whole egg powder, brown sugar. Less than 2% of the following: natural flavors, high oleic safflower and/or high oleic sunflower oil, salt, calcium phosphate, ascorbic acid, d-alpha tocopherol, acetate, magnesium oxide, niacinamide, zinc oxide, calcium pantothenate, ferrous fumarate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, biotin, sodium selenite, sodium molybdate, cyanocobalamin.
Label #2: Corn syrup, dark chocolate (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, vanilla), sugar, modified food starch, citrus pectin, natural and artificial flavors, citric acid, lactic acid, sodium citrate, confectioners glaze, coconut oil, black carrot concentrate (color), carrot concentrate (color).
There they are. Like I said neither is ideal. Based on what we've been taught about evaluating food labels consider the number of ingredients and the number of ingredients you can't pronounce. Remember that the BEST foods don't need labels - fresh, lean or grass-fed meats, vegetables, avocados, coconut, herbs and fruits are the ideal choices. These foods don't need fancy, catchy labels to sell them - stock up on the good stuff and resort to label reading only when absolutely necessary.
Label #1: Zone Perfect Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Dough Bar - labeled as "All Natural Nutrition Bars"...
Label #2: Jelly Belly Chocolate Dips Jelly Beans (chocolate coated jelly beans) - these make NO health claims...