Food Labels Can Be Deceiving

Published: May. 23, 2019 at 5:07 AM CDT
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While many consumers today are showing more interest on where their food comes from there are some marketing efforts being made that sometime muddies the water a bit rather than making things more clear. Dan Hale is a professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Meat Specialist and says it’s no wonder why people get confused about where things like gluten come from.

“What I call quite often is much to do about nothing because people are advertising things that may not even be in that product to begin with. For example, I looked at a ground beef patty the other day and I saw that it said gluten free. And in reality there is no gluten in any beef products whatsoever.”

So are consumers misinformed or are they being misled?

“But if I want to market a specific product that’s in the beef line and I want to market against just the normal product, then I’m going to have to lower the trust that you might have in that normal product by putting on labels things that might not mean anything like gluten free, which there’s no gluten in beef, or GMO free which there’s no GMOs, beef is not a GMO product.”

Hale points out that many food substitutes are not nutritionally equivalent and it’s important to read past the headlines on labels.

“So when you look at a label it’s really important to understand first of all it’s put there in an order as to weight. So within that ingredients, what is the most prevalent item first, then second, then third, then fourth, then fifth, as it goes through. It might say contains less than two percent at the very end of something.”

Hale stresses that a product with a higher price doesn’t make it more nutritious.

“It’s important when you’re feeding your family to think about, well my family needs protein, they need minerals and vitamins and dietary fiber. They’re going to get that from a mix of good foods that are already in the grocery store and a lot of times the cheaper food is just as good as the higher priced food that was marketed and just put a higher price on it and calling it something that maybe wasn’t ever in there to begin with like gluten or Non-GMOs.”