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    Can You Trust Food Manufacturers?

    Can You Trust Food Manufacturers?

    Series by Our Founder, Kent Wood - Part 3

    It’s a beautiful day here in Arkansas, likely the last week of “Spring,” and it feels like the world is slowly getting back to “normal.” Numerous people have asked me how I thought COVID-19 would impact the food industry, but more specifically the healthy food industry. My quick response is, “I think a lot of positive can come out of increased self and health awareness…”, but honestly old habits are hard to break.  This is a unique time in history, full of fear and optimism.  Some people are going to get healthier, regardless of the current situation.  A large segment of people is going to just keep on not being aware of or caring about their health or diet. Then, there’s the segment of people who we hope to inspire - the innocent masses who are not aware that the food that they thought was nutritious, is NOT!
    In last week's Be Healthier Magazine article, Food Labels: Truth or Cover-Up?, I talked about how surprised the FDA approved lab was when I asked them to give me the opportunity to be fully transparent on our food labels by listing all vitamins and minerals. 
    That idea takes us full-circle to our topic for this week whether or not we should trust food manufacturers. This is really a rhetorical question.  Small “healthier” food manufacturers are popping up every day, but from first-hand experience, ReadtheLabl knows how difficult it is to gain traction in the already very competitive grocery market.  Truth and transparency do not reign supreme in the food industry.
    Overcoming the “good old boy club” with large chain stores is an uphill battle.  There are often high-priced slotting fees charged for shelf space, a long list of “hidden” costs and buy-backs, free-fill, and other calculated ways to suck more margin out of the manufacturer desperate to survive. It doesn’t help when our society is plagued with misguided nutritional advice from most health professionals.  Physicians admit to me all the time they have no nutritional education and are not qualified to provide healthy living advice, only medical advice. It is especially difficult removing the blinders intentionally placed by food marketers to cleverly manipulate our hopes to be healthier. 


    “The continued lack of consumer trust came to light most recently in an International Food Information Council Foundation annual Food and Health Survey. When asked, “How much would you trust information from the following on which foods to eat and avoid?”, respondents ranked food companies last.”  - Keith Nunes, Food Business News


    None of us should be surprised that we collectively don’t trust food manufacturers, but, still, we are often fooled into the food marketing vacuum. Food manufacturers know exactly what they are doing to cut costs, sell us as little nutrition as possible for as much money as possible, and get us to focus on convenience and flavor over nutrition. Marketing has successfully turned eating into a reward for the palate instead of a reward of quality of life and longevity. It’s widely trusted that a Chick-fil-A sandwich is actually a quality, healthier selection, but this is what you will see if you take the time to read the list of ingredients: 

    Chicken (boneless, skinless chicken breast with rib meat, salt, monosodium glutamate, sugar, spices, paprika, enriched bleached flour[with malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], sugar, salt, monosodium glutamate, nonfat milk, leavening [baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate], spice, soybean oil, color [paprika], pasteurized nonfat milk, pasteurized egg, fully refined peanut oil [with dimethylpolysiloxane {an anti-foam agent} added]), bun (flour [wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], water, sugar, yeast, wheat gluten, contains 2% or less of each of the following: soybean oil, salt, cultured wheat flour, vinegar, calcium sulfate, ascorbic acid, enzymes, wheat starch, monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, DATEM, soy lecithin, potassium iodate), butter oil (soybean oil, palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, natural flavor and beta carotene), pickle (cucumbers, water, vinegar, salt, calcium chloride, alum, potassium sorbate [preservative], natural flavors [dill emulsion], polysorbate 80, yellow 5, blue 1).


    Source: Chick-Fil-A

    The items highlighted above are chemical additives or highly processed foods that have no nutritional value and are not safe for human consumption. All of these items could be easily replaced with wholesome ingredients for flavor and increasing shelf-life/reducing spoilage, but their use of these items serves the purpose of reducing their costs and creating a palate sensation so that consumers keep filling up the lines at their drive-thru.

    See “Monosodium Glutamate” listed twice within the first 4 lines? That’s MSG. MSG has been found to cause asthma, headaches, and even brain damage, to name a few.

    Trust me, if they could “hide” some of these harmful ingredients, they would. Maybe it’s just a matter of time until they are allowed to on a “voluntary basis” as mentioned in our previous newsletter.


    The FDA does very little to ensure that we get good nutrition. Their very definition of food is:

    FDA in 21 CFR 321 (f), “a raw, cooked, or processed edible substance, ice, beverage, or ingredient used or intended for use or for sale in whole or in part for human consumption, or chewing gum.”  

    There are not enough years left in me to tackle the likelihood of corruption as it relates to the FDA and pharmaceutical companies, but I believe it is our mission to hold the FDA accountable for our food supply; maybe I have enough years in me to make positive changes on that front.

    During a ReadtheLabl product sampling event, I was happy to see a very inquisitive lady, reading our labels very carefully before she took a taste.  After memorizing the ingredients she asked for further clarification.  She said, “I don’t see any natural flavors in your product, I mean, things listed as Natural Flavors.” I knew where she was going and was glad to participate. I replied, “No way...there is nothing hidden in our products.” 

    Come to find out, she is a cancer research scientist and she gave me a little education. She said “We inject carrageenan in lab rats to give them cancer; carrageenan is a thickening agent used for decades by food manufacturers even after health concerns were identified. The FDA succumbed to food manufacturer pressures to allow them to hide carrageenan, along with other ingredients that are bad for human consumption, on product labels as “natural flavor” because consumers were beginning to question the safety of its use in foods. Now, you probably don’t see it, but it’s often still hidden in there.

    If we could trust the FDA and/or food manufacturers, then why would this Natural Flavor phrase even exist, be allowed, or used on labels? Personally, I believe that is the opposite of transparency, yet virtually all health-conscious consumers are fooled daily with the word “natural” on food labels.

    This Washington Post article entitled “What Does Natural Flavors Really Mean” says it well:

    “There is usually only a very small amount of chemical flavoring in each food, so eating some Cheetos is not a huge health risk. Still, many of the chemicals are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so we don’t really know the impact that years of consuming these additives will have on the body. Many of the chemicals that make up natural flavors fall under a category called “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. An estimated 3,000 chemical food additives are in this category, yet this does not mean that these chemicals have been widely studied and approved by the FDA. Food companies do not need to disclose the ingredients of a natural flavor if all of the ingredients, which can be up to 100 in one flavor, fall into the GRAS category.” Casey Seidenberg - Contributor to the Washington Post 2017

    Is there a pattern here?  Ms. Seidenberg correctly states, “Food companies do not need to disclose the ingredients…”, in other words, they are not held accountable for our nutrition and health. Here is another red flag, similar to last week’s, when we looked at how the lack of vitamins is allowed on a “voluntary basis” on the nutritional label on foods; without full transparency and accountability, it remains difficult to avoid the bad stuff or be healthier.


    ReadtheLabl, just like all other food manufacturers, had a few key choices. We are hoping that we can raise the bar for food manufacturers and eventually legislation on national and state levels so that healthy changes can be made in society like the public schools and healthcare. Here are some of ReadtheLabl’s more costly, but important choices as a food manufacturer:

    • Use fruits to sweeten naturally  vs. cheap sugar and sugar substitutes
    • Use fruits and vegetables as thickeners vs. chemically altered “natural” thickeners
    • Use lemon juice and other fruits and vegetables as our preservatives vs. chemically derived acids or preservatives for shelf-stability
    • Use the highest quality raw materials we can find vs. cheap ingredients
    • Use expensive materials in our packaging vs. cheap plastic leaching pouches
    • Cook products at the lowest possible temperature to ensure as many nutrients are maintained as possible vs. high fast temperature cooking to speed up cook times and production lines 
    • Use a broad spectrum of fruits and vegetables to attain true nutritional value vs.  chemical-plant-derived synthetic vitamins 


    This series of short articles is designed to raise consumer awareness and to begin a new level of education for all of us to look closely at what we eat. As consumers, we get the quality we tolerate, so let’s tolerate less of what we don’t want and demand more of what we do want.

    Until next time, read more labels and visit our website for more information.

    Kent Wood, Founder + CEO,


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