Understand food labels

Understand food labels

Always read the labels. They are your best protection.

Always read the labels. They are your best protection.

by Joanne Henning Tedesco —

Food labels are managed in tandem by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which handles meats, animal products, grains and produce, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees grocery items and the labels related to nutrition characteristics, like calories, fat content and vitamins. These two groups ( and have approved the use of some terminology, while other terms are merely marketing hype. For example:

Natural — The term “natural” has no FDA guideline behind it. The information on its website states: “The FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term ‘natural’ or its derivatives.”

Fresh — According to the website, this term means different things for different foods. In Subpart F, Section 101.95 C, food manufacturers are not precluded from using the term “fresh” on their products, even if they are using “approved” waxes or coatings, post-harvest approved pesticides, applying a mild chlorine or mild acid wash or ionizing radiation.

The USDA has categories for the term “organic.”

100-percent organic — Foods that do not contain any nonorganic ingredients.

Organic — Foods that contain 95 percent organic ingredients, and the other 5 percent contain no growth hormones.

Made with organic ingredients — Foods that have at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients. Up to 30 percent of the contents can be nonorganic.

Made with — If a label says “100 percent real fruit juice,” then it is 100 percent juice, but if it says “made with 100 percent fruit juice,” check the label to see what else may be included.

Good source of/Contains/Provides — When foods claim to be a good source of a particular vitamin or nutrient, they must have at least 10 percent of the USDA’s recommended daily allowance.

High source of/Rich in/Excellent source of — Foods must have at least 20 percent of the USDA’s recommended daily allowance.

Always read the labels. They are your best protection.


Joanne Henning Tedesco is editor of AzNetNews.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 2, April/May 2014.


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