Are you stocking foods with meaningless labels?

Retailers in the natural products world know that not all labels are what they seem. Natural. Organic. Local. Supplement health claims. Labels and their meanings boil down to telling the truth. The New York Times recently ran a report about the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s “Food Labeling Chaos” report naming six labels that simply don’t mean squat.

Make sure your buyers are aware of what products have these labels on the package and what they really mean.

Lightly sweetened: A good rule of thumb for retailers is if it can’t be quantified, don’t trust it. What is “light” to one person might be heavy to another. According to The New York Times, “the Food and Drug Administration has regulations concerning the use of “sugar free” and “no added sugars” but nothing governing the claims “low sugar” or “lightly sweetened.”’

A good source of fiber: Again, not quite quantifiable. Right now, fiber is being added artificially to foods, so that this label can be put on the front of packaging. According to the report from the CSPI, “the definition of fiber [should] only include intact fibers from whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit and other foods.”

Strengthens your immune system: As the Federal Trade Commission has made very clear through their investigations into advertisers claiming to reduce symptoms of the cold or prevent sickness, this label goes against wording guidelines.

Made with real fruit: Natural products retailers are typically pretty savvy to these types of marketing claims, and they investigate whether or not the fruit pictured is the fruit listed in the ingredients label. The New York Times reports that many of the main ingredients of “'real fruit” packaged foods are corn syrup, sugar and white grape juice concentrate.

Made with whole grains: This label is designed to tout a certain amount of healthy ingredients, when for many packaged foods, whole grains are the second or third thing listed in the ingredients section. “The promotion of cereals and other grain products lacking whole grains is inconsistent with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which emphasizes the importance of consuming whole grains and recommends that at least 50 percent of grains in the diet should be whole,” according to the Food and Drug Administration’s Dietary Guidelines.

All natural: Highly debated in and out of the natural products industry, there are guidelines as to what natural does and does not mean for different foods. According to the senior editor of the Organic Trade Association, Barbara Haumann, the only regulated products labeled as “natural” are meat and poultry so consumers should be aware of other products labeled as such.

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