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ARTICLE: 6 Misleading Food Labels That Need to Be Decoded ASAP

The following is an excerpt of a Op-Ed from Study Breaks detailing tips for decoding food labels by Plamedie Ifasso, a writer at Texas Woman’s University.

As companies strategize ways to sell their product to consumers, the harsh truth is that not every one of them will keep your best interests in mind. Many will search for phrases with positive connotations to put on their item to ensure maximum sales and draw in more customers.

However, these misleading food labels just create incorrect information about the snack. Not many college students have money to waste, so it is important to know exactly what you are buying. Here is a guide to understanding what these six misleading labels actually mean.

Sometimes ‘all natural’ foods are anything but natural (Image via Dan Gold)

All Natural

Businesses know that many people will make the mistake of assuming an item categorized to be “natural” is healthy and result in customers reaching for that specifically-labeled snack more than the regular version.

In fact, researchers at Ohio University’s Food Science and Technology Department presented 120 participants between the ages of 18 to 65 two situations involving the same peanut butter product advertised two contrasting ways.

The analysts first asked each person which brand they would buy, the one posing to be “natural” or the regular version. Because of their assumption of what “natural” means, most of the partakers indicated they would buy the one labeled as such.

In the second scenario, a cashier told the consumers that one of the peanut butter jars was “all natural,” and researchers reveal that consumers were willing to spend more on the product even though they were the exact same thing.

The truth is that “natural” does not have a formal meaning; even the FDA hasn’t decided how best to define the term. Companies frequently use misleading food labels to make their item sound better than it actually is, and they can easily load pack the product with ingredients like sugar.

However, because sugar comes from a plant, “natural” can still be slapped onto the front. “Natural” doesn’t guarantee you anything except less money in your own pocket.

No Cholesterol

Like the previous stamp, this misleading food label may motivate shoppers to buy a commodity with the “no cholesterol” logo even though there might be a price increase.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found only in animal-based products. This means foods containing ingredients such as dairy, meat or eggs will have cholesterol, but plant-based items will not.

Most of the time, when food is tagged as “no cholesterol,” it truly means there was never cholesterol in the first place; marketers will use a non-existent problem to play on the little knowledge customers have about their foods to charge people more than what the item is truly worth.


This mark usually indicates that the ingredients of the product do not come from animals, plants or other organisms who have experienced an unnatural change in their DNA composition.

To be legitimately considered non-GMO, the merchandise has to come with a certified label from the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization that works to build and protect the non-GMO supply through the education of consumers and verification of non-GMO brands.

Without certification, a consumer can never be 100 percent sure if their food really is non-GMO. As you probably know by now, corporations will say anything to sell their item, so false advertisement is a possibility.

Before you decide to buy food because it is non-GMO, make sure the claim is actually backed up with confirmation from the Non-GMO Project.

To read the entire article, please visit Study Breaks.