How to NOT Get Scammed By Food Labels

Food marketers are clever.

In the quest for the almighty dollar, companies continually find new ways to make you feel like buying their product is the best possible choice.  For a while, it was all about bigger, better, greasier, more delicious.

But as our country became bigger and bigger, the topic of conversation turned to “how can we get healthier?”

So marketers had to change up their tactics.  Instead of promoting the unhealthy, they started rebranding and repackaging their products with healthy buzzwords to make you THINK you’re eating healthier, while still making incredibly unhealthy products that keep you addicted to them.

That Lucky Charms Leprechaun is full of sh**!  If anybody thinks that sugary cereal is healthy because the box says “made with heart healthy whole grains” they’re kidding themselves. But making the healthy choice isn’t always so obvious:

  • Is buying organic really that much better for me?
  • Does “no sugar added” mean it’s automatically better than the ones with sugar?
  • What’s the difference between free range, grass-fed, vegetarian fed?

Today, I’m gonna teach you how to not get scammed by food labels so you can make healthier decisions when you go shopping…with the added bonus of being able to stick it to the Empire.

This is a monster article, and is meant more of a resource for reference, rather than a quick “hey that’s cool!” skim before moving onto videos of cats.

What does organic Mean?

Fruit and Veggies

“Organic, so hot right now.” – Jacobim Mugatu

Everybody and their mother is rushing out to buy organic things these days.  Organic means natural. Nature is healthy. Therefore Organic is healthy, yes?

…to an extent, but not necessarily.

In order for something to be considered “organic”, it must pass a series of government checklists:

Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and diary products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. 

 Along with that, there are three different “tiers” of Organic Labels:

1) 100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients.

2) Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients.

3) Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30%, including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

So, if you see something labeled “100% organic,” then you can be sure you’re getting ingredients that are naturally occurring, or if it’s from an animal then it did not take antibiotics or growth hormones.

[Side note: Don’t confuse this with “All Natural” – there’s no regulation behind this term, and thus means diddly squat]

Back to organics! Organic doesn’t automatically mean healthy.  I mean, you can buy organic cookies and organic cereal, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you. Sure, they don’t have High Fructose Corn Syrup (a big no-no), but they can still contain a ton of sugar and empty calories.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, I try to buy organic whenever possible, especially if it’s with a fruit with a soft outside.

Here are 10 foods you should always buy organic (when possible), and 7 Foods where conventional is okay.

This might surprise you: a huge portion of “organic” food companies are owned by massive conglomerates (PDF)!

Best advice: Use your best judgment, eat real food, and buy what you can afford without driving yourself crazy.  Don’t try to fool yourself when you are buying cookies and ice cream that are “organic.”  They might beat the alternative, but that’s kind of like saying “I enjoy getting punched in the face because it’s better than being punched in the crotch.”

Bet you didn’t think you’d get a crotch analogy in an article about food labels, did ya?

Now, speaking of organics…

What about organic milk?

milk

Here’s what is required of milk in order for it to receive the “Certified Organic” Certification:

  • At least 30 percent of the food they eat must be grazed at pasture during a grazing season of at least 120 days;
  • No antibiotics or growth hormones may be used;
  • All feed must be organic;
  • No meat or poultry by-products can be in the feed.

A note about the “antibiotics or growth hormones”  Almost all regular dairy cows these days are not treated with growth hormones.  Though cows, especially cows that are fed grain-based diets, tend to get sick more frequently than grass-fed cows and thus are pumped full of antibiotics to keep them healthy.

Although some have determined there’s no difference between organic and regular milk, I still aim to buy organic should the price difference not be TOO drastic – to support farmers that take the time to get “Organic” certified.  That being said, I’m not a stickler about it, as it may not be worth it (see below).

Why is organic milk so expensive?  Yes, it requires more money to upkeep a farm for organic cows. However organic milk is also perceived as a higher quality and thus a premium price is placed on it. Due to the length of time required for a farm to receive organic certification (3 years!), supply of organic milk is small compared to regular, and thus the price is driven up.

A note from a farmer just came in: Here’s why you shouldn’t waste any money on organic milk. If the farm that produces the milk is certified organic, cool, what about the adjacent farm?  Wind blows seed, artificial fertilizer and any other loose product, and if that is on an organic farm by result of wind, as far as the government is concerned it is still organic, but from a health stand point, technically, that is no longer organic, also the pasteurization is the same regardless of the branding.  Just a word from a farmer.

What about raw milk?  You’ve probably heard a lot about raw milk in the news recently, as government agencies are doing everything they can to shut down farms that sell unpasteurized dairy.  Why? In a 2012 report on raw milk, the CDC stated that before pasteurization, dairy was dangerous, and “raw milk was a common source of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, diphtheria, severe streptococcal infections, typhoid fever, and other foodborne illnesses.”

However, in the view of a health blogger that I have come to trust, raw milk has been proven to be safe and  raw milk is the only REAL milk.

Final recommendation: Minimize dairy consumption to begin with, consider raw dairy if you are up for it, buy organic if it makes you feel better, understanding it might not be much better than the regular stuff.

Chicken Labels

chickens

It seems there are a million different labels for buying chicken these days…

  • Free range!
  • All natural!
  • Pasture raised!
  • Organic!
  • Vegetarian fed! 

I reached out to a family friend with 30 years of experience in the chicken industry to help cut through the crud and get the real answers on these:

Let’s break these down and decide which labels are worth checking out

Free Range:  Ultimately, this only means that the chicken must have “access to the outside.”  A.K.A., a door cut in the side of a house that has some area for the chicken to ‘range” should they so choose.  Of course, most of these chickens are already raised in captivity and never once set foot outside.  This is not regulated well and thus oftentimes there are no differences between a regular chicken and a free range chicken.  If animal’s rights issues are important to you, a more strict classification below would better suit you.

All Natural: Virtually all chickens raised in America are “all natural” by USDA definition. No chicken company adds hormones or steroids to their chickens; it’s not allowed. The “all natural” label isn’t regulated and doesn’t mean anything.

Organic: USDA has the following requirements for labeling “organic” chicken:  The number of birds raised in a house is about half of “normal” chicken houses.  Only organic feed is allowed (chicken feed is 65% corn, and 30% soymeal. The other 5% of normal chicken feed is bonemeal, feather meal, blood meal and vitamins. Organic chicken cannot receive the vitamins or medicine that normal chickens do. Normal chickens are also vaccinated as day old-chicks, while organic chickens are not. Therefore the mortality rate for organic is 2-3 times normal chickens, hence the increased costs.

Pasture Raised: Ultimately, these birds are raised outside, as chickens would have existed back in the day.  They are allowed to eat whatever falls on the ground, be it bugs, worms, grubs, grass, bonemeal from previously decayed animals, and more.  They are not confined to a cage.  This would probably be your best bet, as the chickens get to spend the most time outdoors exploring compared to the other options.

How do you know for sure what your best bet is?  Try to find a local chicken farmer or visit your local farmer’s market and have a discussion with the people selling chicken. Find out how their chickens are raised and get to know them (the farmers, not the chickens, unless you’re in Portlandia).

Egg Labels

eggs

Now, if you’re looking to purchase the eggs from chickens rather than chickens themselves, you have an entire new set of labels to check out.

A lot of the definitions and descriptions from above remain, but there are a few other differences.

The below definitions are from the Humane Society:

Certified Organic: The birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, are required to have outdoor access, but the amount, duration, and quality of outdoor access is undefined. They are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet, free of antibiotics and pesticides (as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program). Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted.

Free-range: Like above, the birds need access to outdoors to be considered “free range,” but there’s no regulation as to how much time (if any) is spent outdoors.

Certified Humane: The birds are uncaged inside barns but may be kept indoors at all times. They must be able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching, and dust bathing. There are requirements for stocking density and number of perches and nesting boxes. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited, but beak cutting is allowed.

Animal Welfare Approved: As the highest animal welfare standards of any third-party auditing program, the birds are cage-free and continuous outdoor perching access is required. They must be able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching and dust bathing. There are requirements for stocking density, perching, space and nesting boxes. Birds must be allowed to molt naturally. Beak cutting is prohibited.

Cage-Free: Hens laying eggs labeled as “cage-free” are uncaged inside barns, but they generally do not have access to the outdoors. They can engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting, and spreading their wings. Beak cutting is permitted.

Vegetarian-Fed: These birds’ feed does not contain animal byproducts, but this label does not have significant relevance to the animals’ living conditions.  This only means they’re not outside eating non-vegetarian things…like bugs and remains of old animals (you know, like free animals do).

So, once again it looks like we have mostly 80% hype and 20% legit labeling.  Your best bet at a store? “Animal Welfare Approved” eggs if you care about the wellbeing of the chickens who lay the eggs…though I haven’t seen many of these on labels at my local grocery store.  “Free range” and “organic” aren’t necessarily indicative of the conditions the birds might have been brought up under.

Want to go even further?: Get your eggs from a local farmer or local farmers market that has a solid reputation.  Here’s the best recommendation from Food Renegade: Find a local egg supplier on sites like www.eatwild.com or www.localharvest.org, or check Craigslist!

Meat Labels

cows

Ahhhh, the most confusing of them all.

Is organic meat worth it?

What is grass fed?

What the heck does “Vegetarian-fed” mean?

It seems like there’s 18,000 types of meat labeling out there, so I’m gonna simplify the heck out of this for you.

Regardless of what the label says, unless it’s 100% “Grass-fed,” it’s not optimal.  Cows are ruminants, meaning they are meant to eat grass.  Unless specifically labeled as “grass-fed beef,” then that cow was likely forced to eat foods its stomach cannot handle (grains among other things) in order to fatten it up as quickly as possible for slaughter.

Factories feed cows as much grain as possible to get them as fat as possible as quickly as possible, even if the grains make the cow sick.   In order to keep the cow alive, they pump him/her full of antibiotics to keep them standing.

Not good.

Organic beef might be slightly better for you than regular beef (organic cows cannot be treated with antibiotics, they must have “access” to pasture (though for how long is not determined), but may still be fed organic grains.

If the beef is “grass fed” (but not specified as 100%), then it’s possible it was raised indoors with small access for a small amount of time to go out and “graze” – which oftentimes it chooses to ignore.  This is tough to determine when purchasing meat at a grocery store.

So, what’s a Rebel to Do?

Final Answer: 100% Grass-Fed Beef.  This stuff is the best possible option for you if you should choose to consume beef.  Unfortunately, this can quite cost prohibitive if you chose to buy it from a place like Whole Foods, as they know people who want the best will pay for the best.  

Instead, I recommend you check out EatWild and find a local farm in your area that raises grass-fed cows.  Yep, it’s more work, but in the grand scheme of things, absolutely worth it.  Too lazy for that? Have grass-fed meat delivered to your doorstep with Grassland Beef.  Reasonably priced and delivered right to you.

“But Steve I’m on a budget!”  Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are. If you are eating meat, eat the best available to you, and DON’T FREAK OUT. KEEP YOUR COMPOSURE! Any step in the right direction…is a step in the right direction.  As you make more changes, or as your situation improves, then you can start considering switching to organic/grass-fed/100% grass fed.

Okay! That concludes our meat, dairy, eggs, and organic write-up!

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ON PIGS AND BACON: I’ve got you covered there, too 🙂

Let’s move onto the newest marketing term that’s blowing up.

Gluten-Free

Gluten Free

The newest darling of the marketing game.

Thanks to an increase in people being diagnosed with celiac disease (and those who have learned they have general issues with digesting gluten), every food company is rushing to put out a gluten-free version of their best-selling unhealthy product.

What is gluten, you ask? It’s a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat, barley, rye, and other related species. Again and again, grains = bad.

So, all companies are creating “healthier” versions of their products that no longer contain gluten…or (my favorite), slapping a gluten-free label on things that never had gluten in them to begin with so they can jack up the price in the name of “health.”

For example, did you know you can buy gluten-free eggs?

Well, is gluten-free better for you?  Provided the food is actually labeled properly, gluten free foods would be beneficial to people who struggle digesting gluten. However, just like with “organic,” just because it’s gluten free does NOT mean it’s necessarily healthy for you.

Gluten free cookies are still cookies.  Gluten free waffles are still waffles.  Gluten free pizza is still pizza.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking those unhealthy foods are good for you; you’re still better off eating REAL foods whenever possible.

Instead of going on a “gluten free diet” to lose weight (and continuing to eat the same things), why not try a diet that will give you a better chance to succeed.  Just like going on a vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy” (donuts are vegetarian!) gluten-free in and of itself is can still be unhealthy!

Final verdict: Worth the label if you’re gluten-intolerant, but do the research before you run off eating bagfuls of ‘healthy’ food.

Made with Whole Grains

whole grain

I love this one.

Ever since studies started popping up that whole grains were better for you than refined grains, marketing teams have gone out and slapped “Heart Healthy Whole Grains!” on everything they can.

Setting aside the fact that grains in general can wreak havoc on your dietary tract, and grains/sugar are the primary reason most people gain weight, whole grains might not be THAT much better than regular grains, and don’t necessarily help you live longer

But that doesn’t matter.  Marketers will do whatever they can to get their product in your hands, which is why these cereals are now labeled with “heart healthy whole grains!”

  • Kix
  • Trix
  • Count Chocula
  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch
  • Lucky Charms

Sure, these cereals might have a grain in them that is “whole grain,” but they also possess a crazy amount of sugar and other ingredients that are NOT good for you.

So, be smart.  Disregard the front of the label and check the ingredients and nutritional value on the back.  I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that if it came out of a box, it probably ain’t good for your heart.

No Sugar Added

sugar

This is another GEM of a marketing tactic.  

In an effort to make their food appear more healthy to health conscious individuals, companies have resorted to slapping this absolutely WORTHLESS tag on foods, deserts, and drinks.

Ignore it.

If you look at ice cream or juice that says “no sugar added,” it just means that after the initial creation of the product (which contains probably a boatload of sugar already)…no extra sugar was added. It still means it contains approximately one boatload of sugar.  It might have LESS sugar than other products in that category, and thus better for you (BOO SUGAR), but don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s actually GOOD for you.

Be smart. Read the back of the label. Understand that you’re eating something that probably isn’t healthy to begin with. Rather than eating buckets of the processed food that is promised to be ‘healthy,’ eat real food more often and then OCCASIONALLY go for the unhealthy stuff to stay on target.

What other SHADY labels have you seen?

thief

That should get you started.  Remember, this is a resource – don’t feel like you have to memorize it! And don’t freak out if you can’t afford the most expensive beef, eggs, and so on.  Do the best you can and make small improvements when you have the means to do so.

Every little bit counts!  So…

What other labels out there have you seen?

What terms have I missed? 

Any favorite ridiculous ones you’d like to share?

Leave a comment and I’ll add to this article as quickly as they come in.  Again, make sure you bookmark this one should you find yourself at the grocery store and unsure of who’s trying to take advantage of you with shady marketing.

For the Rebellion!

-Steve

###

Photo source: Label, organic fruiteggs, chickens, whole grain, milk, sugar, gluten free, thief

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  • Lisa

    Exactly what I was going to say, or if in the case of other products, they may be processed/packaged in a factory that manages other products that aren’t gluten-free, which poses a similar problem.

  • Lee

    Actually, the lighter the shade of yellow in the yolk, the more processed that chicken’s diet is. Your best bet is to go with an ORANGE yolk, as deep as you can find it. I always know if a farmer feeds grains, even a little bit, because the color of the yolk shows it.

  • Jessica Jackson

    I grew up in New Zealand and dairy farming is huge!!!! every man and his dog is drinking raw milk!!!! heck I grew up on the stuff,even when I moved to Canada I was farming and still drinking it. (I don’t drink any milk now) and I can not name one person that I know who has been sick because of drinking raw milk. The only thing is it takes the body a day or two to get used to the full fat if you haven’t had raw milk I would suggest slowly bringing it into your diet, also it goes bad faster then processed milk. There is alot of testing done on every vat of milk that is taken from any farm, also cleaning is a BIG part of dairy farming and I mean big.most farmers are careful about things and are not out for the “money grab” (that is the compines the farmers have to sell to) farmers are there for the lifestyle they aren’t the bad guy some people think they are. love the farmers of the world 🙂

  • Pastor Tritten

    I always enjoy looking at how many servings a container has. It may be only 75 calories per serving, but if the container has 10 servings and you eat the whole thing … well, you know.

  • Kristina Wright

    Jack and ginger sounds like a delicious occasional drink. I wonder why I never thought of that combination?

  • Kristina Wright

    My favorite is the “Good Source of _____!” is plastered all over every processed food. It reminds me of a habitual liar, who has to get in your face and not blink and use his or her “serious voice” to get you to believe the lie. Fresh fruits and vegetables and good meats aren’t liars. They don’t have to wear signs like that. Or at least, they wouldn’t have to if the processed foods weren’t so damn convincing. “Eat cereal, because beef doesn’t have this laundry list of vitamins and minerals!” Well, neither do you, Lucky Charms. Neither do you.

  • Nicole

    I grew up drinking raw milk. We would get it from the farmer up the road. I NEVER had a problem drinking milk this way. I started having problems when the government told the farmer that he was no longer allowed to sell raw milk and we had to start drinking the stuff from the store. That is when all my lactose intolerant problems started. I personally thing the whole not being able to sell raw milk was just a big money grab for the government. They realized they were missing out on something! I am now dairy free but would drink raw milk if I could get my hands on it as I love a big cold glass of milk but my digestive system does not like the stuff from the store!

  • Erin

    As usual, your article is comprehensive and easy to understand. As a nurse, I find myself constantly trying to explain these concepts to people struggling with diabetes and hypertension. This article, as well as your article on sugar, makes my job a little easier. Thank you.

  • Rebecca

    Not sure if anyone mentioned this yet but “Superfood” seems to be a word getting a lot of buzz these days. It’s pretty sad that the word “super” needs to be used as a prefix to try and get people to eat stuff we SHOULD be eating anyhow like fruits, nuts, veggies, eggs etc… It seems now that companies are throwing pomegranate or blueberries, bananas (or whatever) into crappy, processed snacks and labeling them as “Made with Superfoods!” to try and get people to try and buy them. Lame…

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com/ Steve Kamb

    50/50 chance that package of mixed nuts contains nuts. 🙂

  • http://how-to-get-a-6-pack-abs.com/ MikeMcKay

    I think the best way to avoid all the traps the marketers us is simply by:

    1) Learn the list of undesirable/bad ingredients that are present in available foods in our supermarkets.
    2) Read the list of the ingredients of what we buy.
    3) If there’s a considerable quantity of what we do not want, reject the food
    4) If there is no significant nefast foods in the product, we can choose to buy it.

    I found that it worked great for me. All it takes is a little research and a little bit of thinking before placing a product in our basket. Eazzzy!

  • Yoleen Faerber

    I think they’re gluten free, too. 😉

  • Dustin Dell’Era

    Dude after reading this post i noticed gluten free printed on turkey jerkey and yogurt! I used to tell my wife lrganic was just a marketing ploy to increase profit, thanks for the backup!

  • guest

    That slide show was a bit misleading-there’s roosters in the what is suppose to be laying hen facilities and the breed of bird and equipment pictured do not look like what is commonly used in the US (still could be in the US, but not likely). Being kept “in dark buildings” is also a bit misleading as laying hens are kept on a light cycle similar to summer time light:dark hours in order to stimulate egg production (ie. daylight hours are longer to encourage laying, shorter daylight periods would be similar to winter conditions and would discourage laying). So there are dark periods, but no worse than you experience at night time. As for the toxic gasses-let’s say the average human is about 5’5″ and has 6L of lung capacity. If it is necessary for them to wear respirators to protect themselves from the gas, then how would the bird that is only about 1′ tall with a much smaller set of lungs and sitting next to the source of the toxic gasses (ie. exposed to a much higher concentration) still alive? Lastly beak trimming is performed on adult birds as well as the beak can get too long and make eating difficult (http://youtu.be/YjAibqj8CXM-not commercial, but still-the bird doesn’t seem to be bothered) and even in small backyard farming with only 10-20 hens, some hens are just bullies and will peck a weaker hen to death. Doesn’t mean it’s a perfect practice by any means, but selecting pictures of people who do it wrong and implying that that is standard is not correct either. Definitely question the egg industry about how it can make this better, but also question the agenda of people who show horrifying pictures of mistreated birds and claim it’s common practice.

  • lawdog

    Here is the CDC’s version: http://www.cdc.gov/features/rawmilk/

    While I agree the numbers are extremely low, (you’re more likely to get sick from chicken or red meat) most illness associated with dairy products is associated with unpasteurized milk. I’m not even saying don’t drink raw milk. I’m strongly suggesting that if you choose to do so, you make sure you know the farm and farmer. Understand that any health benefits, for which there is no statistical support, should be balanced against the greater risk of foodborne illness, for which there is statistical support.

  • Maggie

    In Canada the sale (or even the giving away) of raw milk is strictly prohibited and levies heavy fines or even jail time.

  • http://www.thinslimfoods.com/ ThinSlim Foods

    The “Made with Whole Grains” portion really hits home with me.

    We make products that use ingredients which are so low in GI they make whole grains look like white flour and we have to spend a lot of time explaining why “Whole Grain Bread” isn’t much different than regular white bread.

    Strangely enough it is the diabetics who are often the least knowledgeable as opposed to the die hard fitness folks.

  • Dangles McScrotese

    “99% fat free!!!”. On a packet of jelly beans. Duh 🙂

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  • Vincentas

    Funny article.Fun to read,simple,and quite full of useful knowledge.Thank you Steve,for your yet another masterpiece.Please keep going!

  • johnny

    The problem with the CDC data you so heavily rely on, is there is no context for determining how many people drink raw milk that haven’t been made sick. You are picking data that focuses on the results of being sick rather than the percentage of raw dairy consumers who become sick. The latest CDC survey I could find found that approximately 3% of the population drinks raw milk as of 2007 (http://www.cdc.gov/foodnet/surveys/FoodNetExposureAtlas0607_508.pdf). That equates to over 9 million people (based on estimated 300 million population in 2007) yet the CDC reported only “2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations, and 2 deaths” in the 13 years between 1998 and 2011. You are so focused on the 79% percent statistic of reported cases being attributed to raw dairy verse pasteurized that you are missing the obvious; the reported cases represent less .03% of the consumers-of-raw-milk population even if all the reported cases for those 13 years occurred in 2007. Yes, consuming pastuerized dairy will probably be less of a risk, but the risk with raw milk on reported cases based on the data you are pushing is extremely low. This goes to the original point that everyone just needs to do the research and make their own informed decision before consuming anything.

  • Johnny

    Sorry, I inserted the link to the CDC data incorrectly. Here is the corrected link: http://www.cdc.gov/foodnet/surveys/FoodNetExposureAtlas0607_508.pdf

  • carlisa creter

    Such a great post!

  • sogelegos

    Similarly, products labeled “Lite/Light” scream added sugar.

  • Teri Mae

    i dont wish to add fuel to the fire, but as i am a microbiologist (scientist who studies diseases) who has actually studied the bacterial load of raw milk (not for the government, if that makes anyone feel better), i thought i would include my yet unpublished findings. while it is true that quite a few people do not get sick from drinking raw milk, the bacterial load of the raw milk i have been studying from local organic and regular dairy farms is incredibly high with disease-causing organisms (like salmonella, campylobactor, and MRSA). i truly believe it is a personal choice of whether one drinks raw milk or not, but i wanted to input, so people can make an informed decision, that drinking raw milk has the potential for causing foodborne illness.

    in response to johnny, the cdc only has access to the information from the state and local health departments. this study was performed using that information and calling those who were reported as ill. if you get a foodborne illness (some people mistakenly call it the 24- or 48-hr flu) and choose not to go to the doctor because its merely diarrhea for 2 or 3 days, it does not mean that you did not get sick. it just means you didnt go to the doctor. consequently, a much higher percentage of people may be getting sick than is reported. the cdc can only base their numbers off of what they have to work with.

    ps- steve, i love your website! thank you for always doing so much painstaking research to inform us rebels! the label information found here was exactly the kind of database i was looking to send my mother-in-law, who has been asking these questions recently!

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  • 8rustystaples

    Jack & Ginger is a pretty good drink, but if you’re going to treat yourself, try a Dark & Stormy which is dark rum and ginger beer. Fantastic.

  • Jeffrey James

    It drives me crazy when I see things like a box of candy that says “A Naturally Fat-Free Food!” But in my opinion, MSG is the worst offender for hiding itself in food labels.

    Thanks for your detailed and well-researched post!

  • Victoria Elena Acevedo

    All this has done is made me want to go vegetarian for ethical reasons. Poor cows and chickens =/

  • Elizabeth

    Eva, that Stanford study has been severely criticized – see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/13/stanford-organics-study-public-health_n_1880441.html

  • Elizabeth

    Daniel, I’ve heard Dr. Landrigan speak a couple of times about the epidemic of Chronic Childhood Diseases and Mt. Sinai’s Children’s Environmental Health Center put two types (Organophosphate
    and Organochlorine pesticides)
    on their “Top 10 Toxic Chemicals” that are likely the / a root cause of Autism, ADD/ADHD, etc. etc. See the Center’s press release here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/4/prweb9442509.htm

  • Eva

    Yep.

  • Daniel Hoenig

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks for the comment! I really appreciate people bringing new information to the table. I prepared a long response, and I hope you don’t get offended >.< I mean everything in a purely academic context, and should not be taken personally.

    I won't presume to know your background, and I don't have much of a background in chemistry, so this is from what I've read since you posted. It seems like organophosphate and organochloride pesticides groups contain a large number of pesticides, and organophosphates are widely used in the U.S. However, both organophosphates and organochlorides (albeit not necessarily the pesticides) can be naturally occurring and essential to life (ex, our DNA and RNA are organophosphates. Amino acids and fatty acids are organochlorides.) (I just wikipedia’d them) So what is to prevent a green organophosphate pesticide? (As a side note, organochloride pesticides are, I believe, largely illegal because they last too long in the environment)

    Considering the modern development of agriculture, it is no wonder that the number of harmful synthetic pesticides vastly outnumbers the number of harmful natural pesticides. Nor is it a wonder that more research has been done on the harmful effects of synthetic pesticides. After all, they've been around longer. What I don’t see is an equivalent amount of research being done on organic fertilizers and pesticides, and what I have seen shows that the organic tools can be just as harmful. Furthermore, more applications might be needed which could have a poor cumulative effect on the environment (from what I linked above). And for what? The research from the Newcastle study (which, if you read above, is the one contradicted by the Stanford study) only showed a marginal increase in nutritional value of organic foods. In short, we are going with the unknown because the known is scary.

    What I want to avoid is the circular reasoning that seems so prevalent when it comes to food: organic food is better for you because it’s organic. In this case, “here are some harmful synthetic pesticides. Since organic food doesn’t use these pesticides, organic food must be healthier than non-organic food.” It doesn’t work, because it is taking a handful of harmful synthetic pesticides and making them equivalent to all synthetic pesticides. The implication that anything not synthetic is better has no basis. I am not saying this was what you intentionally implied, but rather is a possible interpretation and one that is prevalent in discussions on this topic.

    tl;dr One can’t take a subset of synthetic pesticides, make it the standard for the group, and then say “anything different must be better.” Therefore, while it is interesting in and of itself, this really doesn’t seem to say a whole lot about the organic vs. non-organic debate. Rather, it implies one should avoid those specific pesticides, at least during whatever stage in life one would be susceptible to the effects.

  • Emily B

    Foods labeled “Light” can just mean lighter in colour than the original version. The nutrition of the product stays the same.

  • Andrew Kobylarz

    I don’t think that there is any mention of “humanely raised” chicken or beef, typically all the benefits of grassfed, outdoor, and no mistreatment of animals – thoughts?

  • Earthdave

    Not obvious at all to large segments of the population. Carbs are generally understood to be some food group that has calories. But what it comes in naturally? Nope. How about ‘no cholesterol’ labels on plant foods? Ridiculous since only animal foods can have cholesterol, but most people haven’t studied this stuff.

  • http://glutathionepro.com/ Glutathione Pro

    This is a fantastic resource for anyone trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Regarding the milk section, I would suggest avoiding it all together, organic or not, hormones or otherwise, the sugar content alone should keep you far away from that glass of milk if you are health conscious.

  • http://glutathionepro.com/ Glutathione Pro

    No artificial flavors or added sugars either I hope haha.

  • ishan

    Nowadays it is not easy to find organic food and products.. The market has become money minded in such a way that they don’t care what they are providing for us to consume..

  • Tinessael

    fat free water beats everything ^^

  • Tim Akers

    Been a part of the ‘rebellion’…ish, for maybe a year now, but this is the first full article I’ve read. I am so sick of labels, and are often confused about it. So, I posted a question on Facebook, asking why Capri-sun uses “No Artificial Ingredients,” yet still contains High Fructose Corn Syrup (Lab-made). My brother-in-law, who is a huge Whole Food/Paleo eater, and have lost over 115 pounds, due to NF; he linked me this article on Facebook. So, I read it.

    Thanks for posting this Steve. I am not as much of a reader in the “Health Food” market as I should be. And, you make easy-to-read, and also, captivating at the same time.

    I have a Bachelor’s in Information Security, so I am not appalled to reading large amounts of data; I just have a hard time continuously reading others’ opinions’ on “whatever.” But, you actually state an opinion backed with research. I almost teared writing that last statement. Because, I am just an ignorant American who used to take hearsay knowledge and that was good enough for me. But, now, I check the resource/reference on almost everything.

    So, again, thank you Steve for proving why the Rebellion is actually worth taking the time to invest in.

    Cheers!

    Tim

  • Angel Rey Partie

    I’ve seen 2 commercials for gluten-free meat and about died laughing.

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  • patrickstaller

    According to Eat Wild “Martindale’s Natural Market is perhaps the oldest health food store in the country, dating from 1869.” And I just discovered this place is literally about 2 miles down the street from me. Cool.

  • Martindale’s Natural

    We are delighted to have you shop at our store, too!

  • A Random Person Running Around

    That’s why I’ve stopped drinking Canada Dry Ginger Ale. Sticking to water now. 🙂

  • priyasurena

    I appreciate your hard work. you have put to write such a wonderful article.

    organic soymeal

  • http://lehkost.blogspot.com/ Robert Johnson

    Ever heard of an avocado?

  • Earthdave

    Yes, I have, thanks. Are you implying they have cholesterol? If so, you need to look it up: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1843/2. Or Wikipedia, or any other credible source. Enjoy your avocados!