Food Labels
By Steve O. / August, September, October 2012

AS CONSUMERS, THE ONLY GUIDELINES WE HAVE TO RELY ON ARE THE FOOD LABELS, WHICH WE HOPE WILL HELP US TO MAKE HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES. WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THOSE FOOD LABELS WE RELY ON WERE FALSE AND MISLEADING? HOW COULD WE POSSIBLY CHOOSE HEALTHY FOODS, LOSE WEIGHT OR REDUCE OUR RISK OF FOOD-RELATED DISEASES? DID YOU KNOW THAT a product labeled fat-free can actually be 100 percent fat? Would you also be shocked to find that your lean ground turkey that is labeled seven percent fat, or ninety-three percent fat-free, is actually a whopping forty-five percent fat? These are facts.

It gets worse. Shouldn't a food labeled low fat actually mean that it is low in fat? I bet you had no idea that two percent low-fat milk is actually high-fat milk. Two percent milk contains thirty-eight percent of its calories in the form of fat.

As consumers, we depend upon the food industry and the government to give us "nutritional facts" on food packages. They are provided, but in a very deceptive manner.

How can we expect to lose weight, if the very information we read on the package is completely false and misleading? What if all the foods you thought were healthy, low in fat, or even low in carbohydrates actually weren't?

Companies get away with calling high-fat foods low fat, and using deceptive practices over and over again because of food lobbyists in Washington, D.C. They are paid big money to protect the interests of the companies they represent, over the health of millions of Americans.

We have to understand the definitions used by food companies. Look at a can of Pam or any other brand of cooking spray. On the front, you will see the words "for fat-free cooking" in a large font in bold letters. Turn the can to the back and look at the nutritional facts where it says zero calories, zero calories from fat, zero fat grams, and zero saturated fat.

Now look at the list of ingredients. The first ingredient is canola oil, which is 100 percent fat. How can a product be labeled fat-free, if the number one ingredient is 100 percent fat? Even more shocking is the information about serving size, which is a spray of one-third of a second. I would never be able to spray for just one-third of a second. This product is far from fat-free.

The listing of serving size is another bone of contention. The original Snapple Iced Tea has twenty-three grams of sugar per serving. The entire beverage can easily be consumed in one sitting by most people, yet the can reads there are two servings per bottle. If you drink the whole thing, you have now consumed forty-six grams of sugar, which is more sugar than found in a can of Coca-Cola.

I understand the frustrations of consumers who want to lose weight. But you see how the food manufacturers are working against you.

Steve O, who lives in Coral Springs, is the author of the low-fat cookbook Getting Fit by Eating. He graduated from the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas and the Florida Culinary Institute.

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