The Most Common Myths About Food Labels

Labeling food products requires a company to meet specific standards to reflect the contents of a product. Labels that indicate allergens, gluten, and nutritional information are all necessary to meet FDA legal requirements. However, with so many different health buzzwords flooding the market, tracking less-regulated labels can be confusing. In this blog, we discuss some of the common myths about food labels and how to navigate the public perception of “healthier” foods.

Sugar-Free Labels

When customers see a buzzword label like “sugar-free” smacked across one of their favorite foods, they are more likely to assume that food is healthier because it does not contain sugar. However, sugar-free labels are a common food label myth. Sugar-free products often have some percentage of sugars or sweeteners. For example, when customers pick up a sugar-free product, they may find ingredients such as honey or syrup.

The FDA requires that products labeled as sugar-free must contain less than half of a gram of table sugar. Since the requirement specifies table sugar, businesses use sugary ingredients, such as honey, in a product without formally recording it as sugar. When labeling products, always review the list of ingredients and designate labels that accurately reflect the product’s nutrition. While companies may not legally have to record a product’s actual sugar percentage, customers who inspect further may lose trust in a business’s product. 

GMO Labels

Genetically Modified Organism labels come with many myths and opposing opinions. While some shoppers assume products with GMOs are harmful to the body and the environment, other customers believe GMOs help foods last longer and increase antioxidant and vitamin levels.

While we may not yet entirely understand GMOs, and this debate is still ongoing, the FDA has enforced that by 2022, all products must include GMO labels if they are present. GMO labels are an example of the importance of product labeling because they represent a desire for greater transparency between customers and their products. Regardless of a customer’s personal beliefs toward bioengineering in their food sources, businesses should begin to transition their packaging to include these labels.

Organic Labels

Many customers associate organic foods with healthy lifestyle choices and environmentally friendlier shopping options. However, an organic label does not necessarily equate to guaranteed health benefits and sustainability. The FDA requires that, for a product to wear an organic label, products must have been grown in pesticide-free soil for a minimum of three years. Foods must also be both antibiotic- and hormone-free.

While these requirements eliminate unnecessary preservatives and reflect healthier-grown produce, they do not guarantee any immediate health benefits.

Organic foods’ sustainability is also questionable due to the inequalities of resources many farmers face to grow their produce to FDA regulations. If businesses want to embrace organic produce, opting for labels indicating locally grown products and sustainable harvesting methods will better market their produce.

Customers gravitate toward products with health labels because they crave transparency in the foods they are consuming. Knowing how and where produce was grown helps to put customers at ease when buying a product. Rather than adding limited labels to your products with health buzzwords such as “sugar-free” or “organic” in big, bold text, include information that can accurately represent your product’s nutrition. Increasing transparency between businesses and customers will ultimately debunk some of these food labeling myths.

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Written by Logan Voss

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