'Eco-Friendly' Food Labels Are So Confusing They're Meaningless

Food labelsOrganic. Eco-Friendly. Natural. Pasture-raised. Grass-fed. So many foods making claims that they're better for you. So little time to figure out what it all means. Food labels, catering to our desire to feed our families the healthiest and most environmentally-friendly food we can, have become as common and as useful as Kardashian tweets.

Hundreds of new food labels have popped up on both fresh and processed grocery store items in the past few years, and it's enough to make your head spin. But do eco-claims actually mean anything?


While many labels can be helpful in helping us choose food from producers who care about our health and the environment, a lot of them seem to be nothing but hot air.

On the plus side, USDA-certified organic food is regulated by the government, so producers have to meet government guidelines to put that label on their food. But even then, "100 percent organic" means what it says. Food labeled "organic" needs to have 95 percent organic ingredients. "Made with organic ingredients" means 70 percent must be organic. That leaves wiggle room for 30 percent of a food to come from elsewhere. If nearly one-third of your ingredients aren't organic, how can you even be allowed to use the word?

If you're gung-ho about making sure you make the healthiest choices for you and your family (which, who isn't?), there's some help. Consumer Reports has an online tool to help you make sense of some food labels. But having to cross-check everything you want to buy against a database is irritating.

The FDA clearly needs to step up its game and create a more reliable, more accurate system for labeling foods so that we know more about what we're buying. Without real information, how can we be sure? What consequences are there for people who lie?

It's frustrating for sure. Kinda makes you wish for the good old days when food didn't actually come with labels, doesn't it?

Do you think food labels are helpful or misleading?


Image via libertygrace0/Flickr

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