From “gluten-free” to “natural,” there are many labels used on foods today in an effort to make consumers believe they’re eating healthier or consuming foods with less fat or fewer artificial ingredients. While it’s great to be conscious of the foods we consume, whether at home, work, in school or at restaurants, concession stands, or even food trucks, labels don’t always reveal the real truth and can be deceiving. Companies are savvy when it comes to the marketing tactics they use to make not-so-healthy foods seem like a great choice. As one of the most trusted contract food services management companies in the Southeast, we want to help set the record straight when it comes to some of the most common health labels.
If that “made with real fruit” label makes you think a fruit juice, granola bar or other food is healthier, look a little closer. Look at percentages, and see if any of the first few ingredients actually is a specific fruit. Whole fruit is a better option than a beverage, juice, or product containing 10% fruit.
If it’s “natural,” it must be good for you! Not really, as foods labeled natural are largely unregulated – and there is no definition of what this actually means for most foods when it comes to the FDA. If a product doesn’t contain artificial flavors, colors or other substances, it can legally claim “natural” on the label, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The USDA governs meat and poultry products, and while this agency does define “natural” as minimally processed and containing no added colors or artificial ingredients, it doesn’t mean there were no non-therapeutic antibiotics or artificial hormones used in raising the animals or poultry.
If you’re one of the millions on the “gluten-free” bandwagon, get ready for a surprise. If you’re purchasing foods at the supermarket that claim to be gluten-free, those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease are probably safe, as the FDA defines gluten-free as a product containing less than 20 parts per million of gluten. However, this labeling is almost impossible for restaurants to claim, although menus may indicate an item is gluten-free. Why? Restaurants use lots of ingredients that may contain gluten, not to mention wheat flour. As you can imagine, any type of flour or powdery substance is easily transferred to countertops and equipment used in preparing or cooking foods, as these ingredients often become airborne. So, those menu items labeled “gluten-free” may not actually be totally gluten-free.
Labels designed to make us believe a food is healthier in some way can be very deceiving, as you can see above. How can you know what’s good and what isn’t when it comes to your health? Know what those labels do mean, and what they do not. You can often find this information by searching the web.
For corporate catering, executive dining, concessions management, student dining services or environmentally sustainable restaurants, count on Gourmet Services Inc. for foodservice management that goes beyond your expectations!