It now appears that certain law firms are preparing to seek
damages from “Big Food” manufacturers for contributing to obesity-related illnesses in America. Interestingly, some of these firms are the same
ones that pursued the tobacco industry years ago for manipulating nicotine and then
hiding what they knew about cigarettes being addictive.
These lawyers are now asserting that food companies, by
knowingly disseminating inaccurate nutrition information and circulating
misleading claims about ingredients, are contributing to the harmful medical
consequences of the obesity epidemic.
Specifically, the lawsuits are targeting food products that
are being promoted as “natural” and “healthy,” when in fact they are neither. The
lawsuits allege that up to 25 percent of packaged foods available in the U.S.
are incorrectly labeled.
even if these cases never get to court, you the consumer must still arm
yourself with the facts about foods and use nutrition information as a compass to
guide your food choices. I offer here some simple suggestions about how you can
use the information on nutrition packaging to maximize your healthy bites
and minimize unhealthy ones.
First and foremost...
careful attention to what the packaging says about portion sizes and calorie
content. Soon the FDA will be launching a new front-of-the-package initiative
whereby nutrition information will be more visible, easier to read, and, we hope, easier to understand.
Learn to spot and
decode unhelpful nutrition jargon
Did you know that no legal definition currently exists for
the term “natural”when the word is
used on food packages? Typically, we think of the adjective “natural” as referring
to foods that are minimally processed so that they do not contain any hormones,
antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, food colors, or flavorings. And yet the “natural”
foods on the grocery shelf are not automatically healthy or nutritious. By this
generally accepted definition, dirt could
be considered a “natural” snack.
“Healthy” is another buzzword. According to the Food and
Drug Administration, the term “healthy”can
be used on a food’s packaging if that food meets the generally accepted criteria
for low fat, low saturated fat, low sodium,
or low cholesterol. But keep in mind
that foods labeled “healthy” don’t have to be organic, or additive-free, or
natural, and they often are not.
“Organic” does have a precise meaning
In contrast, the term “organic,”when it’s refering to foods, does
have a specific meaning: the descriptive word “organic” guarantees that no
toxic synthetic pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides, or chemical fertilizers
were used during the production of the crops in question, and no antibiotics or
growth hormones were given to animals.
Further, all food producers and processors claiming that
their products are “organic” are subject to rigorous certification checks and
assessments by independent inspectors who ensure that the food companies are
producing and processing their products according to certain standards deemed