Deceptive Food Labels

Does that package label mean what it seems to mean? Maybe not!

The words and images on a product label can be the difference between a sale and a pass on to another product on the shelf. And so the competition has been on - to create a better designed label that will appeal and convince. Some very imaginative and sly plays on wording and images are used to trick the shopper and make a sale.

Basically, emphasize and exaggerate that which will appeal and camouflage or hide unfavorable facts. It is very important for consumers to examine what is clear, vague or hard to read on a label, and to analyze the wording.

A non-food example is a package of containers that has a large 8 on the package. But you do need to look closely to see that it's not 8 containers but 8 pieces, 4 containers and 4 lids. There are lots of examples of this popping up all over the stores.

But Food is of the most concern because it so directly affects our health.

Some major food producers have been successfully sued for deceptive labeling but it is difficult because they work very cleverly within existing laws. But deceptive food labeling is there with lots of foxy ways to display and sell a product that turns out to be not what it seems to be.

Small print is a handy tool for deceiving buyers. Ingredients lists that are long might mean that there are numerous things there that you do not want to be consuming. If you take the time to read the small print you might just pass on it, and so the small letters. Although sometimes with too many words there just isn't enough room for regular size. Ingredients are usually listed in descending order of predominance by weight. Check out the list and all the tiny words before you buy.

The marketing of juices has brought out some creativity in labeling. A mixture of water, sugar and juice can be called Juice Fantastic, Juice Shangri-la and such. MADE WITH PURE JUICE does not indicate how much pure juice it contains! 100% Juice Blend: CRANBERRY. The two brands I've used have the main juice ingredient listed as GRAPE.

100% pure jam sounds pure but 100% jam does not mean 100% fruit. Does the jam recipe that is used contain excessive non-fruit ingredients such as sugar?

Very common is the bold declaration of a single healthy aspect which will downplay the unhealthy ingredients. There are so many examples of this but one that is very popular right now is the large NO TRANSFAT. It can be loaded with unhealthy saturated fat, salt and sugar but it has NO TRANSFAT. NO SUGAR ADDED does not mean unsweetened and might contain other sweeteners or taste enhancers.

Some breads contain a variety of additives but it's not very obvious when printed on the clear part of the packaging in small letters. Do they not want us to read this?

And how about those little symbols that look remarkably like the Health Check logo of the Heart and Stroke Foundation?

15.4% LESS SALT could still contain excessive amounts.

PRODUCT of CANADA. Does not mean that is was produced, processed, packaged and distributed in CANADA. Some food products pass through several far away countries on the way to market.

There are so many examples of food labels that can fool consumers and buyers should beware of exactly what labels say and what they do not say.

The bottom line: if you care about your health and what you are eating analyze what's written on the label.

Related Social-Fix food articles  -  short url to this page