5 Food Labels to Look Out For

By Khala Hurd January 29, 2021


5 Food Labels to Look Out For

By Khala Hurd January 29, 2021

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite of information or want to drop some knowledge on your dinnertime companions, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week! 

When you go to the grocery store, you see an array of labels on your food and new ones popping up every day! Whether it’s organic, natural, or non-GMO, each one comes with a perceived connotation about whether it is good or bad. But, what most consumers don’t know are the true definitions behind these labels. Here is everything you need to know about the top 5 most prevalent food labels.

5. Organic

This is one of the most popular food labels. Some consumers actually base their diets around being “all organic”. But are all organic labels the same?

USDA organic products do have strict production and labeling requirements. The foods must be produced without any genetic engineering or ionizing radiation, and with only natural pesticides and fertilizers.

Are all organic labels legit? It depends. Products labeled “100% Organic” are just that. However, products labeled “Organic” are made with 95% organic products, and those labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients” indicate that 70% of the product is organic.

It’s also good to note that organic foods do have pesticides. They are not pesticide-free but are instead treated with pesticides approved by the USDA. Also, pesticide residues are found on organic foods just like conventional, but all are safe to consume.

4. No Added Hormones/rBGH/rBST

Hormones – it sounds bad, right? Well, you’d be surprised.

Hormones are used on livestock to help them grow faster and enter the meat market earlier in their lives. Dairy cows may get rBGH and rBST to help them produce more milk, but this isn’t used as much today. Products with the label No Added Hormones indicates that the producers did not use any hormones during the animal’s life.

Does “no added hormones” mean the same thing across a variety of food categories? With livestock, it does. However, labels that state “hormone-free” are not regulated by the USDA because, like humans, all animals naturally produce hormones. Furthermore, hormones are prohibited for use on poultry and pigs, so if you see this label on these products, it’s just for marketing purposes.

3. No Antibiotics

What is an antibiotic? We know it as medicine that the doctor prescribes to make us feel better when we have a bacterial infection. It’s the same for animals.

Just like humans, animals also get sick and need antibiotics. Sometimes, if antibiotics are not administered, the animal will die. The labels listed below indicate that producers did not use any antibiotics during the animal’s lifetime.

  • No antibiotics administered
  • No antibiotics added
  • Raised without antibiotics

However, the term, “antibiotic-free” is not allowed by the USDA because they can’t verify if the animal ever received antibiotics.

The FDA requires all livestock to be clear of any antibiotic residue before harvesting, thus implying that all meat and dairy are antibiotic-free.

2. Non-GMO

Despite seemingly everything being labeled as “non-GMO”, there are only 10 GMO crops currently approved for consumption in the United States: alfalfa, apples, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash, and sugar beets. That’s it.

If you see a non-GMO label on any other produce, food, or beverage — including strawberries, tomatoes, rice, chicken, etc., it is yet another marketing tool because there are no GMO ingredients in these products. Also, GMOs are the most rigorously-tested products in our global food system. Aside from being completely safe to eat, they also have the same nutrient profile as their non-GMO counterparts, making them just as nutritious for you.

The FDA does not regulate any “non-GMO” labels, so this is a label you should be aware of

A non-GMO label creates fear in consumers and can be harmful to our pocketbooks due to the often increased price for the perceived benefit. Know which products have GMO ingredients so you can avoid falling for deceitful marketing ploys.

1. Natural

Natural sounds better than unnatural, right? It sounds like everything else that doesn’t have a natural label on it is fake. But, that’s not the case at all.

Labels that we are referring to include but are not limited to:

  • 100% Natural
  • Made with natural ingredients
  • All-natural

These labels don’t mean anything at all. These terms are not monitored by any government agency and the USDA says that these terms only refer to how meat is processed after harvesting. It’s mostly used by food companies to trick consumers and charge more for their products. They are made to seem superior so consumers don’t mind spending the extra money on them.

The Bottom Line

Don’t believe everything you read in the supermarket. The sole purpose of many food labels is to trick consumers into thinking this product is superior to another in an effort to charge more. Get our downloadable D2D Food Label guide here so you can take it to the store with you and avoid any marketing tricks.