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    Food Labels: Truth or Cover-Up (Series Part 2)

    Food Labels: Truth or Cover-Up?

    “Sir, as an FDA approved lab, no company has ever asked for a full list of vitamins like that!”
     

    In Part 1 of this series, How You’ve Been Tricked by Food Marketers, we talked about product “badges” and how marketers want us to focus on the Low Fat, Low Sugar, Low Sodium, Organic, Non-GMO, on and on badges! Since then, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about vitamins and other nutrients in our foods, especially with the focus on COVID-19 and media attention on how Americans are turning to more junk food and snacks as they spend more sedentary time at home. (America’s junk food diet makes us even more vulnerable to coronavirusNYPost April 18, 2020)

    Kinda crazy isn’t it? At a time when we should be more focused on our immune system and the best quality foods we can find, Americans are looking for comfort foods . . . but old habits are hard to change, aren’t they?

    Let's take a quick quiz to gauge your knowledge of badges and how food manufacturers use them before we jump into the shocking truth of food labels.

    Do you think it’s possible food manufacturers want you to focus on badges because they know that’s most important for your health, or:

         A. They know the hype will get your attention

         B. Their competitors are doing the same thing

         C. They don’t understand nutrition to begin with

         D. They want you to NOT look at the lack of vitamins in their products

         E. All of the Above

    I’m going to go with E. All of the Above; I cheated and researched this for years!

    BELOW THE BLACK BAR

    Have you ever really noticed what is below the black bar, just below Protein on a nutrition label? Hint: that’s where the vitamins are listed. I know, we haven’t been “trained” to look there, but that is where we need to start looking and there is good reason marketers don’t want you to look there. 

    Warning: What you see in this image is NOT what you will find on food packages because…

  • The FDA doesn’t make food manufacturers show it  
  • Food manufacturers do not want you to know their levels are 0!

  • (Sample image from the most nutritious packaged product available) 

     

    I am, but I am not, here to ruffle feathers, especially those of food manufacturers who are doing their best with the knowledge they have to provide the highest quality and most nutritious foods possible, but in this blog when we mention food manufacturers, we are talking about the industry as a whole.  Hats off to the growing number of food start-ups and maybe the occasional established food manufacturer who is shifting their effort to provide more nutritious foods (surely we won’t speculate they are only doing it because of corporate pressures to snag part of the rapidly growing “health” food market).

    I don’t think anyone would argue with me when I say that most food manufacturers care little or nothing about our nutrition or their obligation to provide sufficient vitamins and minerals to prevent disease and sustain a quality of health and life that we all deserve.

    Seventy-nine percent (79%) of parents and millennials are concerned about the food they consume, yet few look at the vitamin levels of their packaged foods, and if they do, it looks “normal” to find little or no nutrient content. 

    LET ME CLARIFY

    For the sake of simplicity and argument reduction, let’s set a standard definition for this blog series that vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and the many other forms of nutrition will be called NUTRIENT LEVELS, or simply NUTRIENTS, although I don’t like being so general because there is a ton of value in adding foods to our diets high in polyphenols (flavonoids and other is phenolic acids), fiber, water, high-quality fats, etc.  Unfortunately, many of the most important nutrients in our foods are completely ignored by the FDA (rampant speculation encouraged here) and we get to easily assume intentionally ignored by most food manufacturers. 

    In future posts, we will dig deep into the many different types of nutrients, how to find them, how to maximize their value, and how to weed through the BS and marketing.

    ON TO THE FUN PART! 

    Under public and political pressure, the FDA issued a new food nutrition panel (label) ruling in 2016 that we are starting to see on products. I think this new initiative is a step in the right direction as it will raise more awareness of added sugars and calories to hopefully help Americans monitor their caloric and sugar intake. 

    Below is the FDA media release:

    “On May 27, 2016, the FDA published final rules on the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The new label makes it easier for consumers to make better-informed food choices. The new label is already appearing on packages. Manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales were required to switch to the new label by January 1, 2020; manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales have until January 1, 2021, to comply. The FDA plans to work cooperatively with manufacturers to meet the new Nutrition Facts label requirements. Manufacturers of most single-ingredient sugars such as honey and maple syrup and certain cranberry products have until July 1, 2021, to make the changes. Manufacturers of certain flavored dried cranberries have until July 1, 2020, to make the changes.

    "Consumers and educators, visit the Nutrition Facts Label Education Campaign page to learn more about the changes to the Nutrition Facts label.

    Vitamin D and potassium are required on the label. Calcium and iron will continue to be required. Vitamins A and C are no longer required but can be included on a voluntary basis.”

     

    This is where my radar goes off, so let’s talk about the “voluntary basis” that gives food manufacturers a huge OUT by the FDA. For a little background, here is what we need to be “healthy.”

    Here is a link to the Harvard Health List of Vitamins humans need and the value they provide. It’s a long list, so I’m gonna summarize the 13 essential vitamins for brevity: 

    A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyroxidine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12)

    If our bodies need at least 13 essential vitamins, why are they not on our food labels and why in the world is the FDA NO LONGER requiring Vitamins A and C on labels?  What about the B vitamins? I will answer those questions for you! 

    OUR FDA “VITAMIN” JOURNEY

    ReadtheLabl went to an approved FDA lab to get the required nutritional analysis of our products.  When the nutritional panel came back I immediately picked up the phone and called them. The conversation went something like this.

    “...why don’t our nutrition panels include nutrients that I know are included, like Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, and so on. I would like to request all levels for all vitamins even if there are minimal amounts?”

    “Sir, as an FDA approved lab, no company has ever asked for a full list of vitamins like that!”

    I am serious...I was the first to ask for something that would allow me to educate our consumers about the truth! 

    Obviously I asked for the full list and they told me that they do not test for most of the micronutrients I asked for and the FDA nutritional panel does not allow for all 13 essential vitamins. So, I got what they would give me, not what you, as consumers, deserve.

    Is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” what’s not in food at play here? Of course, it is. Virtually all packaged foods in America have little or no nutritional value and no one wants us to know it! It is a pretty clever tactic to get us to focus on one thing (badges) so that we don’t notice another thing (lack of nutrition) that we should be focused on. 

    That little story paints a pretty clear picture why American foods do not list all of the 13 essential vitamins, but we need to look more closely at what the “voluntary basis” part means to you. 

    Look at our vitamin levels on our Veggie Soirée (shown in the center) in the images below against the leading “homemade” natural high-end brand on the left and the highest volume selling pasta sauce on the market on the right.

    Those other very successful brands are not about to list half a dozen vitamins with 0% next to them unless the FDA were to hold them accountable. And why would the FDA not hold multi-billion dollar food manufacturers and raw materials suppliers (like the sugar, dairy or grain industry) accountable? Hmmm, I’m confident I do not need to answer that question with my own speculation or research.

    According to the new labeling standards, only Vitamin D will be required in the future. 

    TAKE THE NEXT STEP

    Take a trip to your local grocery store, or better yet, a well respected natural foods store in your area and start really reading the labels and notice the low levels of vitamins in all products.

    Feel free to email me directly if you have comments or questions about this, other Be Healthier Magazine articles or our products.

    Until next time, read labels and Subscribe to our Be Healthier Magazine.

     

    Kent Wood, Founder + CEO, ReadtheLabl.com

    kentwood@readthelabl.com

     

     

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