Food Labels

Q&A with Deb Lundeen and Karol Swan


Q: Are food labels at the grocery store always accurate?

Deb: It is important to remember that food labels can be true, but misleading. The overall goal of companies applying food labels isn’t to educate you — it’s to increase sales of a product.

Q: Which food labels are misleading?

Deb: I once saw a bunch of bananas labeled “no cholesterol.” Since cholesterol is only found in meat, eggs and milk, the label was certainly accurate — but misleading, because it implied that another brand of bananas might contain cholesterol.

Similarly, when you see chicken labeled “no added hormones,” you should know that added hormones haven’t been allowed in poultry production since the 1950s. This is another example of a label that is true, but unnecessary. Chickens grow faster and bigger these days due to enhanced nutrition, better facilities and advanced veterinary care — but not hormones!

Karol: Foods labeled “Natural” is another example. All food is natural. “Natural” meat is considered a subjective label, because all meat is natural.

Sometimes labels such as “Non-GMO,” while true, are merely there for marketing purposes, because many “Non-GMO” labeled products have no GMO counterpart. For example, there is no genetically modified wheat — which means that if your pasta is labeled “Non-GMO,” it’s true; however, pasta without this label is still non-GMO.

Q: Is food at the grocery store safe?

Deb: Producers, processors, manufacturers and grocers all work hard and follow stringent regulations to keep food safe, so from farm to plate, you should feel confident that your food has been thoroughly inspected for safety and quality. A greater threat to food safety is improper preparation and storage of food products once they come home from the store.

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CornsTalk is a newsletter produced by the Nebraska Corn Board that covers important subjects and provides regular updates on various programs of interest to corn growers and others.