Eat Fresh: What Food Labels Really Mean

As more Americans seek to adopt healthy lifestyles, retailers have responded with a variety of food labels aimed at healthy eating. But what do all those buzz words really mean? Consumer Reports explains the science behind the labels:

“Fresh” – Genuinely fresh food products have either just been picked, gathered or produced, says the Food Marketing Institute. What fresh definitely doesn’t mean: frozen.

“Organic” – Foods dubbed organic are growing in popularity because the term is backed by the USDA, which certifies that the food item was produced within their guidelines. These include methods that cycle resources, conserve biodiversity and balance the ecosystem.

“Natural” – The USDA supports this label on egg products and meat and poultry, but producers can use it at their discretion on any item. For an item to truly be natural, it must be minimally process, contain no artificial ingredients, and be regulated by the USDA.

“Local” – Local is defined by the retailer, and as such, may not meet shopper expectations. A retailer typically labels items “local” if they came from somewhere in the state (à la Whole Foods), in bordering states, or within a specified perimeter around the distribution center.

“Artisan” – Fast food chains have been using the term artisan for years to distinguish their products from competitors, so identifying authentic artisan products can be a challenge. Food items categorized as artisan are generally not handmade, not small-batch or not high-quality, as the label suggests.

“Seasonal” – Experts at the Produce Marketing Association believe seasonal is a relative term. Because many produce items are imported from other regions, or even countries, items labeled seasonal may not truly be seasonally grown on farms in the area in which they’re sold.

Source: Consumer Reports

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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