Food Labels – What they Don’t Show!

I am constantly learning more about making good choices with food and reading food labels. As my regular readers know, I have been exploring labels for organic foods and looking carefully at what is in the food I buy for my family. I discovered an App for my iPhone that has blown me away…or rather the information I have discovered has!

Fooducate is free to download for the iPhone and can be found at the iTunes store under Apps. Upload and then ‘zap’ the barcodes on food packages to discover the good, the bad, and the ugly. What is on the food label is not always all there is to the food. I began in my own cupboard…after which I almost wished it were bare!

I am addicted to a certain cereal. I love the stuff! It is my staple breakfast and I do not get the midmorning slump despite it being a high carb meal. I know what the food label says and I felt guiltily okay about it. Imagine my disappointment to discover how bad it is for me. Having scanned the barcode, I discovered one serving contains 2.5 tsp of sugar; it contains high fructose corn syrup and also a controversial additive known as BHT that acts as a preservative. While I knew about the high fructose corn syrup as it is on the food label (bad me for ignoring that), I was disgusted to learn about BHT.

Butylated Hydroxytoleune (BHT) is an additive used to prevent oils and fats going rancid. There are some studies, according to Fooducate, which have shown this additive to be carcinogenic. Anything that can potentially cause cancer is a big no-no in my house: we did that already! So my favorite cereal is a thing of the past.

Fooducate also told me that this cereal contains artificial flavors (also on the food label), not a big deal, unless, like me, you have recently discovered that these flavors can be created with a whole host of chemicals! Fooducate goes on to talk about artificial verses natural flavorings and seems more of a resource than a scare-mongerer.

The cereal was also rated: A+ being the best, D being the worst. This cereal ranked C+ or about average on the Fooducate scale. I can see the calories per serving, and there are also reviews from consumers. These are not reviews I would value, however, as some are merely “Oh I love this stuff!” or something along those lines. You can add the food to a list for future reference and hit a button to see healthier alternatives. I sure used that button quickly!

Now, this is not a blurb about Fooducate as a product, I’m not being paid or sponsored in any way, I just wanted you, the reader, to understand how it worked a little.

I decided to use it to see how my own shopping list shaped up. I have always been a label–reader and shopping takes me a long time, but I went solely for the staples I always buy and zapped away. Yeiks! Time to rethink my list, me thinks!

The organic cookies I buy for my sons – they scored C+ too! But they are organic! Unfortunately they are packed with sugar and are not organic but ‘natural’. Read about the difference between natural and organic here. I had, like many before me, mistakenly expected for a brand that sells predominantly organic products, to be exclusively organic. But I realized as I looked at my cookies, chicken, minced beef, soup, and salsa, all by the same company, non of them contained the USDA organic seal. They all said ‘Natural’. I had been “brand-conditioned”. I fell, hook, line and sinker for a name I felt I could rely on. Now I am label-savvy, I realize I have to be much more careful and deal with the extra expense of real organic meats! Yep, I thought I’d found a great source that was priced fairly well. NOOOO!

Fooducate was partially responsible for this. Seeing how much junk some of the foods I was buying actually contained, I have decided to try a new approach, one that I am able to do this coming week as I am off for vacation. I am going to buy only whole foods (not from Whole Foods, the store – too expensive for a full shop) but I am going to buy vegetables, beans, and grains and make meals from scratch. The meat will be an expense I will have to swallow as it is organic or nothing. Thankfully have easy access to shops that sell organic produce…but I’m taking Fooducate along and I’m checking all labels!

10 comments on “Food Labels – What they Don’t Show!

    • It will drive you crazy…but I try to use it to inform my decisions a little more. It does not deal with organic labels being true but does point out the “natural” issue 🙂

  1. Thanks for this reminder…I have fooducate on my iphone but I always forget to use it. I do everything from scratch since I can’t stand the additives that go into this food. It’s amazing what carcinogenic ingredients are added to everything these days. That’s why I am so inspired by working with herbs and spices and how they help.

    • Don’t worry, Eila, I have a degree in instructional technology and I have 3 apps on my phone…Fooducate, FB and Angry Birds 🙂 Enjoy!

    • You are welcome, Kelly. I’m finding it useful for avoiding MSG and other yuckies in food. It’s also pushing me towards much more unprocessed food 🙂

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