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Why You Should Read Labels (& How to Start)

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Why You Should Read Labels (& How to Start)

Have you ever enjoyed a “naturally flavored” berry soda? Did you know that the delicious “natural” berry flavor could actually be made from a beaver’s sex gland secretions? This ingredient is technically called “castoreum,” but few (if any) companies put the proper name on their labels, instead simply calling it a “natural flavor.” Ingredients such as these are one of the many reasons why it’s essential to be an educated and thorough label reader.

From chicken feathers to beef fat, beaver “secretions” to wood pulp, from a calf’s stomach lining to plastic by-products, many of the ingredients that pass as safe and ethical for consumption are, in truth, unpalatable to both body and mind.

Personally, I will not put anything in my shopping cart, on my body, or in my body without reading the label and understanding what is in the item first. I happily adopted this practice after becoming vegan and recognizing that knowing what is in the products I purchase is not an inconvenience, but rather, a right that we should all be exercising. I think every vegan, heck everyone, should be a label reader and researcher and here are some of the reasons why.

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Read more: Beauty, Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Do Good, Eating for Health, Family, Food, General Health, Green, Health, Life, Vegan, Vegetarian

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Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati

Gentle World is a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization, whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition. For more information about vegan food and other aspects of a vegan lifestyle, visit the Gentle World website and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

58 comments

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5:33AM PDT on Oct 26, 2013

Some people, don't care what they are ingesting. That's their prerogative. I, certainly, do.

I look for animal products, preservatives, high cholesterol corn syrup, strange chemicals, serving size, sodium and many others. Look for natural flavors. It's amazing what companies are allowed to include under that category--MSG, for instance, as long as it is not 99% pure. That is something that bothers a lot of people. Marketing phrases can be very misleading--All Natural means nothing.
Free range and cage free often mean very little--the animals can still be crammed in warehouses and allowed out for only brief periods of time. They can still be abused and horribly slaughtered.

Of course, we have to trust the accuracy of the labels, as well as, USDA inspectors. I am concerned about GMO's. I hope their labeling becomes a reality.

You can only do so much with the knowledge you have and hope for the best.

12:14AM PDT on Oct 25, 2013

thanks for sharing

12:39PM PDT on Mar 12, 2013

In these times you should read labels, and don´t trust them all!

4:32AM PST on Feb 19, 2013

Interesting Thanks. With the UK horsemeat scandal,I think more of us will be checking labels,but even then you cannot be sure that what it says on the label is true !!!! Buying local fresh ingredients seems to be the best idea.

8:38AM PST on Jan 29, 2013

Gross... its all comes down to money. Not sure which is worse...

2:29PM PST on Jan 27, 2013

Thanks for the info!

3:02AM PST on Jan 23, 2013

It's always good to know more before consuming

2:21PM PST on Nov 28, 2012

For the majority of the times when I check labels, I get so many looks, confused faces and people shaking their head. I've even had an "Oh my God, you're not gonna die from eating that" and a "You're not one of them people checking for things that 'give' you cancer, are you?"

It's great to see so many others who do.

8:02AM PST on Nov 5, 2012

@Julie D. Have you noticed how when it says "low sugar" it has higher salt content then the regular brand while when it say "low sodium" the sugar is higher? My grandmother is diabetic has earlier this year, during the summer, been put on a low-sodium diet as well. That is what we found. When one is low the other is high.

7:58AM PST on Nov 5, 2012

I was taught to read labels when I was 4 and have been reading them by myself since 9. The only time I didn't was when I was 13-16 when the man my mother married did all the shopping and thought my food allergies were nothing more then my mother's way to control what I ate. When they divorced I started up again. I read not only for soy and milk, by corn syrup and blue dye (for my brother who is allergic) and chemicals made in labs. Since I have to do look out for those (and all names they go under) I can take a few hours to shop for 4-5 people for the week. Mother has added gluten to the list for her. Many pre-made are no longer an option for my house hold with all the food allergies and intolerances.

It may not take long if you are looking for a few things, but when 5 things hid under 5-10 different names and those 5 things that MUST be avoided that makes it take a while. But it is well worth it for health in the long run.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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