If you’ve ever seen a package of Super Grain Quinoa Pasta but never read the ingredients, you’ve probably assumed it was made entirely of quinoa. But in reality it’s mostly corn. This is the nature of packaged food in America. The front side can say Quinoa Pasta but the backside reveals it’s really corn with some quinoa in it. Product names on the front side are often not properly descriptive. It’s a tolerated marketing tactic seen everywhere food is sold, even in health food stores.
A friend recently went to a local health food store and purchased a bag of carrot chips thinking they were chips made from slices of carrots, but after reading the ingredients, he felt mislead. There were no carrots, just carrot juice. Corn was the main ingredient followed by milk, whey, and wheat. All of which he is currently sensitive to. The man went back to the same store and asked the owner if he choose the products he sells based on their ingredients, the owner said “No.”
Federal regulations require food manufacturers to list their ingredients so consumers can make educated food choices. The ingredients area must list the main ingredient first and the lesser ingredient last. All other ingredients fall in proper order by proportion in between. Following this rule, the Super Grain Quinoa Pasta mentioned at the beginning of this article, lists corn flour first, and quinoa flour last. Yet corn was never mentioned on the front side anywhere.
Federal regulations covering food ingredients also save countless lives. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 2% of US adults have life threatening food allergies, also called true or fixed food allergies. Like food allergy sufferers, food sensitivity sufferers must watch their back by reading the backside of every single prepackaged food product they buy.
The same federal regulations make it easy for people wanting to avoid certain food ingredients for any reason to do so. Wheat, sugar, soy, MSG, and their relatives are popular targets of those who practice reading the backside of the package – the ingredients list. For example, the man who bought the carrot chips avoids corn because it’s a starch but also because it makes his skin feel dry and itchy.
Probably the most well known misleading front side marketing tactics involve MSG. Not only does MSG have dozens of different names it can call itself in the ingredients area, but front side package claims can be misleading based on when the MSG was added during the food process. “No MSG”, “No Added MSG”, or “No MSG Added” are boldly claimed on the front side of processed foods when many actually contain free glutamic acid (MSG). To learn more about MSG and marketing please visit this website: http://truthinlabeling.org/
A rising star in front side labeling is the “Gluten Free” claim. Common grains like barley, wheat, spelt, malt, and Rye naturally include gluten. Grains like: quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat may be cross-contaminated during processing if equipment also used to process natural gluten grains. These grains may include: quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. Most products labeled as “gluten free” are full of refined carbs like corn, rice or tapioca that are not healthy when eaten on a daily basis. Here is a wonderful long list of grains identified as gluten free (green), or not (red) – http://www.csaceliacs.org/gluten_grains.php
If you’re sensitive to soy then watch out for this top ten ingredients used in processed foods, lecithin. Lecithin is more often than not a by-product of soybeans thanks to the federally subsidized (cheap) soybean crops. Lecithin has a variety of uses. It’s used as an emulsifier in candy bars holding together the cocoa and butter. It can also be used as a stabilizer (a natural preservative), a dispersing aid, and an a releasing agent for baked goods. Persons allergic to soy are technically allergic to the soy protein. Lecithin contains very small amounts of soy protein but there are a few case reports in the medical literature of allergic reactions to lecithin derived from soy.
Another great example of misleading labeling are the new Stevia sweetener products. Many of these products are NOT truly Stevia but rather a large bulk of processed corn sweetened with a stevia extract. Depending on the brand name, the main ingredient is one of several popular commercial bulking agents. Erythritol, Glycerol, Erythritol, Arabitol, HSH, Xylitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol, Isomalt, Maltitol and Lactitol are all made from corn broken down into syrup then fermented into a sweet alcohol and then crystallized. Cane sugar is another bulking agent for the Stevia sweetener. There are other popular bulking agents which more often then not comprise the main “bulk” of every stevia product sold as a sweetener in your grocery store. I wrote a lengthy researched article named “Will the Real Stevia Please Stand Up?” on my blog here
What else can I say but, watch your back by reading the backside.