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Food Labels Aren’t Accurate (And That’s Dangerous)

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What Exactly Is “Natural Flavor”?

Unfortunately, labels like “natural flavor” or “spices” are often used to obscure the ingredients in food. Some of these can be seriously gross (and mess up a vegetarian or vegan diet), but some can be downright dangerous.

Right now, asking the manufacturer or avoiding any products listing “natural flavor” as an ingredient are†the only solutions for those with allergies or food sensitivities other than the “big 8.” If you have a very mild reaction or it takes a significant quantity to set you off, it might be safe to take a chance and see. But if you have a serious food allergy, you may have to avoid anything with this “ingredient” entirely just to be safe.

Improvements In Food Safety

It’s not enough for the FDA to merely suggest that possible sources of contamination be acknowledged. And it’s not enough for only 8 major allergens to be acknowledged in plain English on food labels.

Rather, food labels need to be required to openly disclose all possible sources of contamination, and the sources of all ingredients need to be easily identifiable. Ingredients like “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” can be made from corn, wheat, soy, or just about anything – the source should be present on the label. And “natural flavors” should have to be disclosed in easy-to-understand language. For some of us, it’s a simple matter of quality of life – but for others, the potential consequences are much more serious.

Until stricter food labeling laws are passed, I encourage people with food sensitivities to cook from scratch as much as possible. I know it’s not always possible, especially if you have a busy schedule. But when eating the wrong thing can land you in the hospital or force you to miss days of work, the extra effort is worth it. For once, you’ll be able to know exactly what’s in your food.

Related Stories:
What Gross Secret Ingredients are Hiding in Your Food?
A Safer Snack? Yup, Youíre HomeFree
Peanuts in Green Beans? Why Checking Labels for Allergens Isnít Enough

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143 comments

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9:42PM PDT on Apr 21, 2013

SOYLENT GREEN.....One of Charlton Heston's futuristic end of world movies.....really rates good with what's going on today with our food.....anyone who hasn't seen it.....you would get a blast out of it. Don't eat it !!!!! SOYLENT GREEN .... IT's PEOPLE ! IT's PEOPLE ! & the FDA would probably approve it because people are meat too? Check out Jamie Oliver's you tube post on pink slime if you want to know how ground meats are made ( & processed meats too for that matter ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wshlnRWnf30 guess i'll just go get me some oatmeal & gag it down.

3:12AM PST on Mar 2, 2013

How can a guideline be incorrect?

10:10AM PST on Feb 28, 2013

thanks

2:54AM PST on Feb 2, 2013

There should be better monitoring

9:45AM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

Although I don't live in the U.S. I'm very causious when I go to the market cause I don't trust the labels here in Greece. Maybe in many other countries also. So this article is good to have in mind when shopping. Thanks for sharing this very informative article.

11:56AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

And how about the text size of directions and information being so small it's impossible to read.
I'm of course referring more to medications in this instance. It's seems the more critical the
information the smaller the font. All in all, a dangerous situation that should be illegal and definitely needs to change. But you know how it goes, someone has to die first.

5:47PM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

ty

3:01PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

my son was born with a beta carotene intolerance and we had to cut out everything red, orange and yellow and introduce each food one at a time. turns out he is allergic to carrots. he is now two and it seems every tomato based product also has carrot juice for coloring (even rices that aren't white have carrot juice in most cases!) we have to be careful what we give him.

8:23AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Interesting rationalization, if it doesn't kill you, what is the problem? So very expensive to change labels, better to double up in pain and agony for hours on end or perhaps end up in the hospital but we would not want to inconvenience business now would we?

With this callus mindset the consumer just has to learn to suck it up and take it like a man...or woman! Some in society feel that companies have to be careful as to not to step on the delicate toes of the Shareholders! Obviously their financial profits are far more important to society than people's pain, agony and in many cases, death.

There are often many things in foods that we don't know about and the fight not to label foods with GMOs is just one of the ongoing battles. The less we know the better for profit especially with refined/processed foods. I try and cook from scratch to avoid a lot of the toxins out there but so many products be it food or other are not labelled clearly as a matter of intent.


10:59PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Thank you for the article.

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