6 words on food labels that you should never trust
Anyone who spends as much time as the Twisted team watching trash on telly knows that you shouldn't trust advertising. Unfortunately, a picture of food that looks too good to be true probably is. If you’re still surprised when your fast food sandwich looks less like the beautiful poster and more like it was stepped on by a small elephant, you’re going to spend your life disappointed.
But, bubbling underneath the surface of standard misinformation and fake food news, there are a whole range of sneakier methods being employed by marketing moguls. These may not be immediately obvious, but are in their own way just as blatant as an airbrushed burger. Here are a few labels to keep an eye out for.
1. Gluten Free
As we’ve become more aware of the cons of a gluten-high diet, brands have tried to take advantage. Advertising a product as “gluten free” is now a tool for squeezing a few extra pennies out of nervous shoppers. The trouble is that many newly labelled, newly premium products never had any gluten in them to begin with - therefore the inclusion of gluten free labelling can sometimes be completely unnecessary and misleading.
2. Award Winning
Maybe it’s the child in us, but there’s something irresistible about a big gold sticker with a shiny cup in the centre. Despite the draw of a winning label, there are several instances where such an accolade actually means next to nothing. A prime example is the wine industry, where some awarding bodies have been known to recognise as many as 10,000 “winners” in a single year.
3. Multi-Grain Bread
We’ve all got used to the idea that grains are good. It therefore follows that the more grains you have, the healthier something will be. This has lead to an arms race between suppliers to stuff as many grains into a product as possible. Unfortunately, it’s not the number of grains that count, but their quality. Multi-grain is just empty marketing speak and doesn’t actually tell you anything about the nutritional value of what you’re eating. Instead, consumers should look out for demonstrably healthier whole-grain products.
4. Sushi-Grade Fish
With a label like “sushi-grade”, the product surely has to be something special. In actual fact, there is no regulation that determines whether or not a fish can be used to make sushi, and it’s entirely down to the discretion of the supplier or seller. You might end up with a prime piece of sea bass or a stomach full of parasites - just don’t rely on the label to tell you which.
5. No Trans Fats
It’s human nature that as soon as someone tells you that there’s “definitely no X in this”, we automatically start searching for “X”. So it proves with trans fats. In actual fact, USDA guidelines state that a product can be labelled as free from trans fats as long as it contains less than 0.5 grams per serving. Given that government nutrition guidelines suggest eating no more than 2 grams of trans fat per day, there may be as much as a quarter of your daily allowance in a supposedly “trans fat free” product.
Most people naturally assume that when they see “light” on a product that it contains less fat. In actual fact, the government guidelines over what light can and can’t mean vary on a product to product basis. While there are certainly some “light” alternatives that legally have to be lower in fat, others might just include light as a reference to a different taste or colour. Unless you’re prepared to research, consumers really have very little way of knowing either way.
It’s far easier to take companies at face value and not think too carefully about what your buying. It certainly would make things easier if big business could be blindly trusted to get things right. Alas, money often matters more than honesty. At least now you know to take a second glance at something that might seem too good to be true.