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Health Food Labeling Decoded


by Marla Murphy June 17, 2015

Wouldn’t it be nice if foods could just be labeled Eat and Don’t Eat?! Labeling requirements and regulations on food and food products are ever changing and just when you start to understand what words like organic, and GMO-free mean we will see new trendy buzzwords on the packages like Free-Roaming and Animal Welfare Approved. And what do these words even mean?!? Are these terms just placed on the label to trick us into buying something that is pretending to be healthy when in reality there isn’t regulations in place to back up the claims?! Are there major loopholes for labeling and which is our best option to purchase!? I wanted to clear the air today with part 1 on decoding/reading food labels so you can be the smartest consumer at the store and KNOW what you are getting is a good choice! Organic: 95 percent of ingredients in a product are free of synthetic additives (dyes, fertilizers and pesticides) and cannot be processed using genetic engineering, irradiation or industrial solvents. Packages can also claim to be 100% organic – meaning they are in fact 100% organic. Made With Organic: Product is 70 percent or more organic or made with organic ingredients. Free-Range/Free-Roaming: Animals are provided with shelter in a building, room or area with unlimited access to food/water and have access continuously to the outdoors during their production cycle. The outdoor area can or may not be fenced and/or covered in a netting material. Note: This labeling is not well regulated by the USDA and this does not mean humane life or good for the environment. Cage-Free: Animals are able to freely roam around a building with unlimited access to food and water but they generally do not have access to the outdoors. Note: This term is not well regulated by the USDA and this does not mean humane life or good for the environment. Natural: As required by USDA, meat, poultry, and egg products labeled as “natural” must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices and only applies to processing of meat and egg products. There are no standards or regulations for the labeling of natural food products if they do not contain meat or eggs. Non-GMO: this is a product that has not been modified at the gene level. Grass-fed: Refers to free-range/cage-free animals that are raised on ranges rather than feedlots. Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage consisting of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. Hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources may also be included as acceptable feed sources. Routine mineral and vitamin supplementation may also be included in the feeding regimen. If incidental supplementation occurs due to inadvertent exposure to non-forage feedstuffs or to ensure the animal’s well being at all times during adverse environmental or physical conditions, the producer must fully document (e.g., receipts, ingredients, and tear tags) the supplementation that occurs including the amount, the frequency, and the supplements provided. Pasture-Raised: Animals had continuous access to the outdoors for a large portion of their lives. Feedlot-raised livestock or any livestock that were confined and fed for any portion of their lives may not use this term on their labels. Humane: Multiple labeling programs make claims that animals were treated humanely during the production cycle, but the verification of these claims varies widely. These labeling programs are not regulated under a single USDA definition. Animal Welfare Approved: Meat and dairy products that are raised to the highest environmental and animal welfare standards. This includes the farm raised animals have continual access to the pasture or range, opportunity to perform natural/instinctive behaviors and high-well slaughter practices.  Marine Stewardship Council: an organization that certifies fish that are caught under sustainable fishing practices and provide the highest sustainable standards for farm-raised and wild caught fish.   Kinda eye opening to think that using the word 'natural' on a food label pretty much means nothing (for the most part)!! I hope you found this article helpful and be on the look out of decoding food labels part 2!! What surprised you most about this article? I would love to hear from you! Love, Marla


Marla Murphy
Marla Murphy

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