Reading a label is a simple way of finding out what is in a product and learning what's behind the label is the key in deciding whether you want to use that product. Some labels are clear and list all the ingredients and others mask ingredients or don't list all of them. Some labels are regulated and have defined standards such as certified organic food. Other labels that include natural in big letters have little or no meaning.
So what do labels mean?
Certified Organic - Certified by the US Department of Agriculture says that food is grown or raised without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified organisms. Certified organic food may not contain added sulfites artificial colors or flavors. Some certified organic foods may have added enzymes, acids and waxes. Always look for the USDA organic seal and remember that "made with organic ingredients" is not the same as certified organic. Certified Organic farms and food processors undergo periodic on-site inspections.
Transitional or Certified Transitional - This label means that the food is from farms who are transitioning their crops to organic methods. There may or may not be chemical residues in the food, depending on how far along the farm is in the process. The standard for becoming organic used to be 7 years, but once the USDA took over they changed the number to 3 years. After one full year of practicing organic standards a farm may use this label.
GMO Free Or GE Free (Genetically Modified Organism free or No Genetic Engineering) - Under this label the food producer claims it not been knowingly genitically engineered or maninupulated. Labels are voluntary and are not enforced by federal regulations. Just to give you an idea 89% of soy beans and 65 % of field corn grown in the US are genetically modified to be resistant to herbicide which results in the farmer being able to put more herbacide on the crops.
Natural - This is a term that does not have legal standards other than the USDA rule of not allowing products that include artificial flavors or colors and are only minimally processed. The USDA however allows additives that have been highly refined such as high fructose corn syrup which qualifies as natural. The USDA has not yet addressed the issue of tenderizing, processing or flavor enhancing.
No Additives or Preservatives - Another term with very little meaning. Those foods can still be loaded with saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, sugar or other ingredients you want to limit in your diet.
Kosher - the kosher labelling system is quite nice because it provides a complete ingredients list as well as identifying whether the product contains dairy or meat.
Whether you are shopping in a supermarket or a natural food store you'll want to learn more about labels. A natural food store in Burnsville, MN called Valley Natural Foods has a page that also gives information about food labels in their store. http://www.valleynaturalfoods.com/labels.shtml
Reading the labels on foods will help you make better food choices.
Here are some organic food selections in bulk packs. Buy your organic food in bulk and help support this website by buying healthy products here.