Green Thumbs Up!

Don’t Be Fooled!

Authors: Lincy Taylor, Amy Funkhouser, Meshundra Reese & Melanie Rush.

How to audit food quality, by understanding labels.

When you decide on buying food, of any kind, it can help to think about the quality of those foods that you are purchasing. You want to make sure that you’re trying to nourish your body with clean and wholesome foods.

A great way to make sure of that is to understand quality labels on the foods you are buying. Knowing whether your meats were raised free-range and antibiotic free and if the dairy and second generation products like eggs or offspring are genetically altered, your fruits or vegetable were grown with predetermined genetic modifications with added chemicals or if your baked goods were made with good quality ingredients that weren’t tampered with to give them all a longer shelf life over quality of the products themselves, it is important to be able to know how to choose the very best of these products for yourself by understanding the labels.

Labels are FDA regulated so consumers are able to tell how that items was raised or produced, however some labels can be misleading. Companies, in an attempt to sway buyers will use phrasing and similar packaging to true organic labels and products to fool consumers into buying less than upmost quality ingredients.

Auditing food quality: understanding produce labels.

When it comes to produce, your vegetables, herbs, fruits and nuts even, there are three basic categories of labels that can tell you all you would want to know about the item. Typically with produce a small coded label will be placed on the produce directly. These labels are stickers and are usually made from plastic or polymer and adhere with an FDA approved adhesive, but even though the adhesive is FDA approved it is still inedible.

This means that the adhesive and sticker itself can be digested and will pass through your digestive system if you happen to consume one, it has zero nutritional advantages so it is best to gently remove these labels from your produce as well as to wash your produce before consuming it. Some produce, like apples and other tender fruits may have a thin wax layer on them that can be removed with a quick and gentle Luke-warm wash in water. Lemon juice can help to remove bacteria and impurities from the exterior of your produce also.

The three categories of produce labels are conventional, organic or genetically modified. Being able to determine how your produce was grown is the check the numerical code on the items price look up label, also know as the PLU. If the label has a five digit code on it beginning in a 9, that means that it was grown organically. If the label has a five digit code, but begins with the number 8 that means that the item was genetically modified for bigger or faster growth with hormones or DNA modifications to the seed the item was grown from, and if the label has a four digit code typically beginning with a 3 or a 4 that means that the produce was conventionally grown. Meaning grown with pesticides or with genetic modifications that deter pests altered in the seed itself, or both pesticides and genetic modifications. Ideally when purchasing your produce you will look for a five digit coded label, beginning with a 9 to ensure that the item was grown wholesomely and with care, rather than chemicals and predetermined gene biases in the seeds. Most times you can avoid produce grown with GMOs and chemical pesticides by buying locally and talking to the farmer who grew the produce, which in turn helps the farmer, as well as you, the consumer.

Auditing food quality: understanding meat labels.

Being able to tell real organic meat from conventional is very important. As organic meat does so much more then provide you quality meat. First let’s look at the ways to tell organic from conventional.

Organic meats have many benefits. Those being they contain fewer harmful hormones than conventional food. Having the organic seal means that the meat is 100% organic. With the organic seal you may see other wording. On organic meat you should see; NO Antibiotics Ever, NO added hormones ever. Along with federal regulations prohibit the use of added hormones in that particular meat, crate free gestation & farrowing, not restrained in gestation or farrowing crates. Also born, raised and harvested in the USA and the official organic seal. The organic seal should be green or black. These should all be on your meat labels, don’t be fooled. This is the regulations to make sure you are getting 100% organic meat. In pork and poultry they are given food free of synthetic pesticides. The animals are not given antibiotics.

Experts agree regular use of these drugs can lead to dangerous antibiotic resistant bacteria. In beef, cattle on non-organic farms are given sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen so they will grow faster. Some experts agree this is leading to early puberty in girls.

Watch very closely if you see packaging with wording like made with organic ingredients then the product contains at least 70% organic ingredients. Companies try to trick consumers by placing look alike labels or the wording natural on the packages. This is called “green-washing”. In the US a certifying agent and are allowed to use the USDA Organic seal.

Not all organic farmers can label their products organic because they are not officially certified. Often because they are a small farm so it’s not worth the cost to get certified. You can find these at local butcher shops. When shopping at a butcher shop ask questions. Where was the animal raised? You want to make sure its local. Is it free of antibiotics? Is it free of hormones? This is what organic meat is and you should make sure of when looking to find a local butcher.

Buying local organic meat has many benefits for local businesses, people and the planet. I have included labels of organic meat for you to reference and conventional meat so you can see the difference. There was one label that confused me that I found. After picking it up and reading small print I was able to find it wasn’t truly organic. It also didn’t have the seal in green and black. Deception of meat posing as organic is everywhere. You have to be vigilant. Hopefully I have shed light on what to look for next time you are buying organic meat.

Auditing food quality: understanding baked goods labels.

Most people never really think about what is in the bread that we eat, in fact, many of us only assume the role of consumer and believe whatever the label says and nothing beyond the curtains of the food’s preparation process ever really translates onto the finished product in our minds after the fact, at least not until there’s a problem.

In today’s food trend, many people are trying to avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their food and opting to buy more organic products, whether it’s with the intent to eat healthier or to control health issues. A growing demand that many food Producers are capitalizing on and even going as far as marketing their food products as, ‘Non-GMO’ or ‘Organic”, without truly living up to their product’s label. So how do you know what you’re buying? The USDA and the Non-GMO Project have companies to put Verified seals of their labels that indicate to consumers the absence of GMOs.

In order for a product to be considered organic, it should inform the consumers that it is free of any artificial agents, such as chemical fertilizers or pesticides, from farm to table. A big difference from products that are considered fresh, which suggests that the food is unprocessed or raw and has not been frozen or subjected to any form of thermal processing (other than preservation). However, reasonable to claim that an item is. The FDA states that there can be no such item as “fresh” bread, even though “freshness” is insinuated on the labels or descriptions.

In common use, a fresh loaf of bread is one that has been baked recently (usually within a day) and there is no guarantee that bread purchased as “Fresh” or “Fresh baked” will not include these ingredients. The FDA can’t actually regulate the words “fresh” or “organic” on labels.

Most people would agree that fresh bread has better flavor and texture than bread that is less fresh or ‘day old’, and that fresh breads made with organic or non-organic ingredients are better in terms of flavor and texture.

I think it’s very important that consumers are able to make informed decisions about GMOs through both the Non-GMO Project and USDA Organic certification.

Auditing food quality: understanding dairy and egg labels.

There is a little bit of controversy over whether all egg and dairy has GMO or other additives in them. I personally was under the impression that the product was simply based on the feed.

While making sure your cattle and chickens are getting all natural food from a local source sounds good, it is not easy to know for sure. Unless you are part of a local group or company that does this, there is no saying what your getting.

Practically all milk has GMO in it. While milk itself is not genetically engineered, the food the cows are given usually is. Most conventional milk comes from cows who have been given supplemental corn and soy. If your milk has a label saying “non-GMO” it simply means the cows have not been fed such feed. A dairy cow is primarily fed alfalfa, hay, corn, and soy. Of those four only two are not genetically engineered. Based on an article from the San Francisco Chronicle some farmers have reported that non-GMO feed is to expensive, almost doubling in price. Another article written by a former dairy farmer states “Thus, the claim that “GMOs are in your milk” is false – there are no plant genes of any kind in any milk, just some fragments of DNA”. If you are able to find milk labeled “non-GMO” or “organic” then the cow has not been fed any sort of genetically modified feed.

Now let’s take a crack at whether eggs are filled with GMO or not. Put simply “Real eggs are GMO free”. According to the American Egg Board “Scientific research has confirmed that none of the genetically engineered materials are passed into the egg”. A chicken is typically fed corn and soy beans that have been genetically modified. Whether your hen gets GMO or organic, their body’s digestive track breaks down the proteins and nucleic acid. Also according to the Center of Food Safety, “Right now, no genetically engineered egg-laying chickens are on the market. Nevertheless, non-organic, egg-producing chickens eat genetically modified grains such as corn and soy”. Based on these findings, I believe it would be safe to say that eggs are a GMO free food.

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