Take part in ‘Read Your Labels Day’, and tell the food industry that you’re ‘fed up’ and not going to eat it any more!

Posted by
April 4, 2013

A food package is a very interesting item. While it supposedly contains something of vital importance to our survival (or just as likely, one that has been adulterated to the point where it does us more harm than good ), it is a prime piece of advertising for a company – one whose objective is to get the product it contains off the shelf and into your shopping cart.

To help you discover the real facts, or “411” on what all this processed food is really made of, Citizens For Health has declared April 11th  as “Read Your Labels” day.  We hope you join us in this movement to promote awareness that the part of the food package that means the most isn’t its graphics — the fancy font and appetizing depictions – or even (gasp) the nutrition facts label. What counts the most when it comes to processed food is the ingredients label.

Without knowledge of the actual ingredients that go in to a food product, you really have no idea what you’re eating. That’s why we want you to get involved by not only reading those labels, but showing us those labels.  We want you to stand up to the food industry and show that as a  knowledgeable consumer, you won’t accept deceptive marketing ploys, like references to nonexistent fruit or bogus claims of “no MSG.” Or that you’re not fooled by cereals with fake colors and preservatives and soups that “taste good” due to the presence of monosodium glutamate and other forms of free glutamic acid,  and that you’re wise to the hidden trans fat in products that claim to have “zero” amounts.

For more information on many of these additives to avoid, check out the blogs on our top ten, and when you find any of these ingredients take a photo with your phone and share it with the world on Instagram using the hashtag #ReadYourLabels. Helping others become aware of the presence of these nasty additives is a true good deed!

Don’t be fooled by ‘what’s out front’

What do you look at first when you see a processed food? Most likely the colorful, carefully designed front of the package, known in the industry as the “principal display panel” or PDP. I prefer to think of the PDP as prime real estate. Here’s where the big, beautiful photo of the food appears – usually with the tiny words “enlarged to show detail.” The goal of most principal display panels is to provide you with information that is as deceptive as is legally possible.

Along with the front panel PDP, there are also areas allowed to be used as “alternate PDPs,” and immediately to the right of the PDP is the “information panel” that contains most of the data required by the Food and Drug Administration. If the packaging meets all its FDA-required statements, the back of the box or container offers yet more free real estate for the manufacturer to hype the goods inside.

But the only part of the label  you should be paying any real attention to, the ingredient panel, which will give you the real lowdown on what  the product is made from, is neither  fancy nor usually even easy to read. Sometimes it seems to be presented in such small type that even magnifying glasses won’t help (which is probably a sign that the food inside is best avoided). But it’s there if you strain your eyes, just to the right of the PDP, underneath the nutrition facts label.

Oatmeal, for example, is about as simple as food comes. You put oats in water and cook it for a length of time depending on the cut of the oats. Below is a pretty box of Quaker Peaches & Cream instant oatmeal. It looks simple enough, but check out what it’s really made of.

And how about this Minute Maid lemonade?  Does it look to you like the ingredients match the package copy?

Once you start really reading the ingredients that processed food products contain, there’s no going back. One good ‘side effect’ of such label scrutiny is that when you discover what all these food “chemists” have been up to, you may start cooking more of your own food, using real ingredients that actually belong in a kitchen, rather than a laboratory.