How to Understand Food Labels


Labels on meals are supposed to assist us make higher, more healthy choices, however all of the totally different terminology — gluten-free, licensed non-GMO, natural — could make it even more durable to decide on the meals that finest match inside our finances and way of life.

As a part of a dialogue at #BlogHer17 on decoding meals labels, a panel of all-female farmers and agriculture consultants gave ideas to assist us navigate “grocery cart confusion.” Consisting of Kristen Reese, a lifelong farmer and blogger behind Local Farm Mom, Lori Anne Carr of Titan Farms (the biggest peach grower on the east coast), Michelle Miller, higher often called The Farm Babe, and dietitian Leah McGrath, the panel answered questions and provided ideas for getting essentially the most out of your meals.

1. GMOs usually are not new

GMOs — or genetically modified organisms — get a variety of press nowadays, however that doesn’t essentially imply that we perceive what they’re. Technically, GMOs are any organisms — together with vegetation, animals and microorganisms — wherein the genetic materials (the DNA) has been altered in a manner that might not happen naturally.

This could sound like one thing new and even out of science fiction, however it’s in no way. Humans have been tinkering with plants for millennia by selectively breeding crops which have fascinating traits. What differs is the method, which right now takes place in a lab reasonably than farmers making an attempt to hand-pollinate blossoms.

Also, “GMO isn’t an ingredient,” Miller stated, including “literally everything we eat has had its genes modified by humans.”

Miller additionally famous that there’s a purpose why round 95 % of farmers within the United States are rising GMO varieties — “because it helps us be better farmers.” For instance, she stated that planting GMO greens with traits that make them much less susceptible to bugs signifies that much less pesticide is critical, which is healthier for the atmosphere and our well being.

2. “Organic” doesn’t imply “pesticide-free”

One false impression every of the ladies on the panel needed to place to relaxation was that natural produce signifies that it’s grown with out using pesticides or chemical compounds.

“Organic farms use chemical compounds too — they’re simply natural chemical compounds,” Carr, whose farm consists of 7,000 acres of fruit and veggies, defined.

And for the report, simply because one thing is “organic” doesn’t imply that it’s not genetically modified. This additionally appears to be a supply of confusion.

3. Just as a result of a meals is labeled “organic” or “non-GMO,” it doesn’t imply that it’s wholesome

Organic, non-GMO junk meals remains to be junk meals — these designations don’t add any dietary worth to the meals. (See: Basically all of Trader Joe’s snack meals aisle.)

4. Labeling one thing as “Non-GMO Project Verified” is partially a advertising and marketing technique

You’ve in all probability seen the Non-GMO Project label with the butterfly logo whereas purchasing within the grocery store, however have you learnt what it really means?

Yes, it signifies that the product doesn’t comprise GMOs, however it’s also a advertising and marketing method.

Given all of the mistrust of GMOs and safety issues, “the brands hear fears of consumers and take action,” McGrath stated.

“Fear is the new sex when it comes to selling products,” Miller added.

The Non-GMO Project Verified label is just not merely awarded to qualifying merchandise. It’s one thing that should be purchased. The prices fluctuate relying on whether or not the farmer is making use of for a product with a high-risk ingredient, like soy or corn.

The label can also be slapped on merchandise that can not be genetically modified (as a result of they don’t comprise any genetic materials). Examples embody sea salt and cat litter. In these instances, there are not any well being advantages to being labeled as Non-GMO Project Verified, and in actuality, all salt and cat litter is non-GMO. But a manner they’ll differ is by charging increased costs.

“Labels on the front of the package are like makeup,” McGrath stated. “A lot of times they make products look better than they are.”

5. Pay consideration to the nation of origin on produce

One label Carr does recommend being attentive to is the nation of origin. This isn’t as a lot out of concern to “eat local” (extra on that in a minute), however due to the truth that the USDA has strict guidelines for produce and holds farmers to requirements that is probably not met in different international locations.

According to Carr, her largest concern is that somebody will get sick due to the meals she grew, so she takes all precautions potential to make sure that her fruit and veggies are secure.

6. You nonetheless want to clean natural produce

Washing all fruit and veggies — no matter the place they got here from and whether or not or not they’re natural — is a vital a part of meals security. McGrath cautioned that further consideration ought to be paid to provide bought from roadside stands. She additionally stated that folks have informed her that they don’t suppose they should wash natural produce — one thing she stated is unquestionably not the case.

Consumers who would love extra info on pesticide residue can go to

7. “Local” can have a broad definition on the subject of meals

“Local” is one other meals buzzword of the second, encouraging individuals to eat meals produced close to the place they dwell. But it’s not that straightforward. According to McGrath, labeling one thing as “locally grown” doesn’t essentially imply a lot. Sometimes it simply signifies that it was grown elsewhere in North America.

8. GMO apples are coming quickly

Next up on the checklist of genetically modified meals? Apples that don’t turn brown while you minimize them.

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