By Julie Vrazel
Walk down any grocery store aisle and you’re sure to see a plethora of health food buzzwords. Organic, hormone-free and natural—just to name a few.
These eye-catching phrases are designed to entice us to grab items off the shelf without feeling guilty.
But do shoppers even know what these labels mean?
Oftentimes, they don’t. The buzzwords and healthy sounding declarations have blurred the lines and confusion abounds. I cringe when I walk into the grocery store. I just want to buy safe and affordable food without fighting the health food marketing jargon.
So, beware of the sales pitch for the latest trends and diets. The shelves are crowded with labels of all kinds—some certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others developed by marketing gurus.
Below are a few labels that can mislead consumers in the store.
Natural. No one really knows what “natural” means. There are no standards, nor is there a certification program. Does that mean the other foods are unnatural? Of course not. Natural is just another marketing ploy.
GMO free. Foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe and environmentally friendly. Studies show the nutritional value of GMO-free foods compared to conventionally raised foods isn’t any different.
Gluten free. I’m not sure where this health craze started, but it has increased the awareness of celiac disease, which is caused by eating gluten. Found in wheat, barley and rye, gluten is the ingredient that gives breads and other foods their shape, strength and texture, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s a label that’s important for those with the disease, but is of little concern to the rest.
Hormone free. There is no such thing as hormone free beef, pork or chicken. Whoever markets that is deceitful and dishonest. Consumers are tricked into buying a product that reinforces those myths and gives conventional farming and ranching a bad reputation. All meat has hormones, just like you and I have hormones.
Don’t let these labels cause you to be afraid of your food.
As you walk down the aisle and pull items from the shelf to fill your cart, remember that labels aren’t always what they seem. The truth is, you can be healthy eating a balanced diet with sensible portions and an active lifestyle.
The rest is marketing and political hype. Don’t be misled.