By Cara Rosenbloom, RD
Do you read labels when you shop for food? Some people scan the Nutrition Facts, while others look on the front for information. But did you know that while some on-package claims are regulated, others are buzzwords used for marketing? Here’s what you need to know.
The government strictly regulates on-package messaging, including the ingredients list and the Nutrition Facts panel. It also oversees rules for nutrient content claims about the amount of fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals in food. So if you see phrases, such as low in fat, high in fiber or source of vitamin C, you can trust the accuracy of these statements.
The government also allows certain authorized health claims, which state that an ingredient may reduce the risk of a disease or condition. For example, there are authorized claims linking calcium with osteoporosis and soluble fiber with heart disease.
You can also look for the USDA Organic logo, which verifies that ingredients were grown or raised using specific organic farming methods. Being caught using the logo on products that don’t qualify can result in a fine of up to $11,000 for each violation.
The government doesn’t define words, such as real, natural and superfood, so any product may bear those words on its food packages. They don’t carry much weight since they are unregulated, so it’s buyer beware. Other unregulated words include:
There’s no telling what these terms refer to on food packages, so don’t make food choices based on these words alone.