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“Nutrition Facts” Are Inaccurate

April 22, 2008 | 46,713 views

food label, nutrition facts, watermelonReading the “Nutrition Facts” panels on foods may not be as reliable an indicator of a food’s nutrients as you may think.

"Good Morning America" hired a lab to test a dozen packaged food products to see if the nutrients matched the labels.

The government allows foods to contain 20 percent more diet-damaging ingredients than the label lists before taking enforcement action, and all 12 products were indeed over in one way or another. Three were actually over by more than 20 percent, including:
  • David‘s Sunflower Seeds with 23 percent more saturated fat
  • Ritz Crackers with 36 percent more sodium
  • Wonderbread with 70 percent more total fat
Meanwhile, manufacturers are allowed to list "0" on the label even if their product contains up to half a gram of the item in question. Despite a "0" on the labels, there were small amounts of saturated fat in Baked Lay‘s Potato Chips, Rold Gold pretzels, Special K Cereal and Grape Nuts Trail Mix Crunch, and trans fats in Nabisco Cheese Nips.

Good Morning America did point out that their study was small, and included only one sample of each product. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests nutrition labels, it buys multiple samples from different lots.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

If you are relying on Nutrition Facts panels to keep you healthy, I have some bad news: they won’t.

Roughly one out of every 10 food product labels contains inaccuracies, according to one FDA survey. And these, they said, were excellent results.

What about the FDA checks? Well, the FDA does check nutrition labels, but to what avail? In one FDA report that implied more than 28,000 food labels were checked in a 14-month period, the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that they only checked to see whether or not the Nutrition Facts panel was present, rather than whether or not it was accurate.

So if you really believe the FDA has got this covered you better recalibrate your brain on this one.

And even when food labels are considered accurate, it must be more than 20 percent off in order for it to violate federal law, and government food labs have a 10 percent margin of error.

This means that an item labeled as having 400 calories can legally have up to 480 calories, and the 10 percent margin of error can bring it up to over 500.

What’s Really in Your Packaged Food Products?

Meanwhile, food labels, though perceived as fact, do not tell the whole story of what’s in your food. For instance:
  • “Incidental additives” do not need to be listed on the label. Incidental additives include substances transferred to foods via packaging, and “ingredients of other ingredients” that are present at “insignificant levels.”
  • Food manufacturers are allowed to round to zero for any ingredient that accounts for less than 0.5 grams per serving. So if you eat three servings of trans-fat-free chips, you could actually be getting up to 1.5 grams of trans fats.
  • “Natural contaminants” are also allowed and present in your food. This includes things like insect parts, insect eggs, and rodent hairs.
  • Many other things are also exempt from being labeled, or may be stated in a way that makes it hard to find. This includes genetically modified ingredients, irradiated ingredients, and ingredients from cloned animals.
Of course, this problem is not unique to the United States. One Australian survey found as many as 84 percent of labels incorrectly stated the quantity of at least one component, for instance, and a study in Canada found that up to 15 percent of product labels were inaccurate beyond the 20 percent allowance.

So no matter where you live, it seems, food labels cannot be trusted.

Getting Past Food Labels

Food labels are intended to help you eat healthier. But even if they were accurate (which is highly questionable anyway), this premise only works if you read them, know what ingredients to look for and which to watch out for, and then make the appropriate choice.

This is a particularly challenging problem as 90% of the money that Americans spend on food is for processed food, so this is a serious issue.

Additionally, in the United States, 80 percent of Americans say they read food labels. But 44 percent will still choose to buy a food no matter how bad the label looks … so the presence of a food label is really a moot point in these cases.

The issue is really two-fold. One, that you are informed of unhealthy vs. healthy ingredients, and two, that you make healthy choices. For people who are knowingly choosing to eat unhealthy foods, there is almost certainly an unresolved emotional challenge that is causing you to sabotage your health with unhealthy choices.

If you fall into this group, I’d suggest you consider consulting with an energy psychology professional who can help you to get to the bottom of your emotional issues. These professionals typically provide very rapid improvement, and many of the sessions provide as much benefit as seeing a conventional psychologist for months or even years.

For those of you who are looking to eat better, and are ready to make healthy choices, here is my number one tip: avoid packaged and processed foods.

Instead, fill your stomach with fresh, locally grown produce, organic, grass-fed meats, eggs and other foods that don’t require an ingredients label. Get to know some local food producers (farmers) in your area, or join a food coop that will give you access to one.

Then, prepare your food at home, with your own two hands, so that you will know exactly what you are eating, without having to rely on a questionable label.

[+] Sources and References

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