Food labels have made huge improvements in honesty, clarity, and standardized information over the years. In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the USDA Food Safety Inspection and Inspection Service required brands to provide more information about their labels.
But what do they want to tell you now? And what can marketing and branding hide?
Anatomy of a Food Poster
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services enforce federal laws on food labeling. Aside from the typical nutrition label and ingredient list, products should show:
- Any claims related to nutrients (for example: “20% vitamin C”)
- Nutrients to support any health claims (example: “a good source of vitamin C”)
- “Light” or “light” claims need to prove the claim on the label
- Any added spices, flavors, or colors
- No chemical preservatives
- Whether it contains raw fruits, vegetables or meat
despite of Broad laws regarding labeling, Food companies are still spending huge money to deceive consumers with false (legal) allegations.
Common false claims to look out for include:
- Promote whole grains and health when the ingredient is full of sugar
- Unrealistic portion sizes to make calories seem low (who drinks only half a can of soda?)
- A claim of “multiple grains” when highly processed ingredients or refined grains
- Claiming “natural” when the end product is full of chemicals and highly processed (products can use the claim “natural” if you start with a natural source at some point, such as an apple)
- “No added sugar” could mean the ingredient is full of natural sugars (here looking at you, fruit snacks)
- Use other chemical names or names for sugar (dextran, malt powder, etc.)
Buy local produce from farmers’ markets
Since homemade items are not sold to the masses, they don’t necessarily have food labels. Consumers purchase these products at their own risk knowing that they have not been formally evaluated for ingredients, production processes, safety, or nutrition facts.
If you buy a product that makes you seriously ill, you can file a consumer protection or personal injury claim back to the seller.
Foodborne illness and bacterial outbreaks most commonly come from certain types of foods at farmers’ markets, including:
- Fruits and vegetables
Regular, old fruits and vegetables, and other unprocessed items tend to be obtained from farms. It is up to each farm to take on producer liability insurance.
If the product you buy is hurting you or your family, you can file a lawsuit – but talk to an attorney first to determine if the money you get back is worth it. For example, if the authorities introduce a large number of people, it makes everyone sick (As in a wedding), It might be worth the time and money the case requires.
Buying from a restaurant
Restaurants with more than 20 (chain of restaurants) locations are legally required Display calorie information For every ingredient or meal. This can be viewed on:
- Listings printed or online
- Menu panels
- Cards or stickers in food showcases
However, Mom-and-pop restaurants and local joints don’t have to divulge the secrets of how much butter goes into their delicious dishes.
COVID changes to food labels
To help with supply chain disruptions and keep delivery times as low as possible, the Food and Drug Administration has allowed this Flexibility with stickers during the pandemic. This means that companies can make “minor adjustments to the formula” without changing their current designations.
The same goes for vending machines. Flexibility has been given to some labels on vending machine items to keep products delivered on time. These temporary rules will be removed after the pandemic ends and companies have a reasonable period of time to update their posters.