Don’t Let Buzzwords Fool You! How To Outsmart Sneaky Labels & Shop Non-GMO
- Published on: 11 February, 2014
- Last update: 04 August, 2017
Buzzwords are trendy terms used by corporations to seem “in the know” and current. It is often an ambiguous or vague word that has no concrete meaning, but is repeated over and over to win support for a cause (and sometimes manipulate a customer into thinking a product is something it’s not!). A great example of this is “free range.” Everyone wants organic eggs/chicken because the current health movement is making them popular, so the words “free range” are thrown on every carton in sight. But does it MEAN anything profound? No. In fact, the FDA has minimal guidelines for what free range standards should be – most ‘free’ chickens are given a mere 15 minutes a day outdoors, and only a slightly larger box/cage than those conventionally raised.
Do not let marketers fool you into buying a sub-par product just because they throw buzzwords around that will catch your attention. Yesterday, my dad came home with Cheese #2 (in the picture above). I’ve been teaching him (slowly but surely) what phrases and certifications to look for to make sure our family is buying all non-GMO products. He handed this cheese to me and said, “is this good?”, to which of course I shook my head.
He felt defeated, and I could see it on his face, because he’s been doing so well with identifying which products have GMO ingredients. But you know what? It’s HARD trying to decipher all of these grocery store labels! Some would even call it exhausting. There are so many things listed on labels now! Hormone free… Antibiotic free… Vegetarian fed? What does it all mean?!
- All Natural = this. means. NOTHING. I can’t say it enough. Food labeled “natural,” according to the USDA definition, does not contain artificial ingredients or preservatives and the ingredients are only minimally processed. However, they may contain antibiotics, MSG, GMOs, growth hormones, and a slew of chemicals. “All natural” DOES NOT MEAN NON-GMO. Things labeled “natural” can contain “natural flavors” made from GMO corn, MSG or even… beaver anus. Naked had “all natural” on their label for years even though the juices contained GMOs and over 11 chemicals. Finally, they were sued and took it off. Shows you how much the USDA is paying attention… someone else had to sue them.
- No Preservatives = Once again, this means nothing. Preservatives are being used less and less and nowadays even shelf stable cereals don’t need or use them. Most foods that you will find that are GMO (breads, even hot soups in a fresh food bar, salads, meat, cheese, milk) never had preservatives to begin with because they don’t need them… yet they are still GMO. Sure, it’s great that it says no preservatives but this means NOTHING in the scheme of long term health and eating non-gmo.
- Kosher = My dad, for some reason, thought that “kosher” meant it was healthy or non-GMO. Not at all. There are hundreds of kosher GMO foods. Certifies kosher simply means that the food was prepared following specific Jewish laws (such as not mixing meat and milk.)
- 100% Vegetarian = Nothing gets me more angry than this buzz phrase. Do you know what’s vegetarian? Non-animal plants/crops such as corn, soy, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, etc. Do you know what’s 95% GMO in this country? Plants/crops such as corn, soy, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, etc. Do you know what animals eat in this country? Corn, soy, alfalfa, sugar beets. See where I’m going here? Millions of vegetarian foods contain GMO crops! This label is POINTLESS!
- Gluten Free = I don’t understand why this buzz phrase would be added to a cheese label… other than the fact that it’s another thing that will get customers thinking it’s healthy. People automatically assume “gluten free” means “weight loss food.” Ice cream is gluten free. Lard is gluten free. Butter is gluten free. Cheese is also gluten free (all on its own.) Why would cheese contain wheat? This is just another trick in my eyes.
- Hormone Free = Use of the term “hormone free” is considered “unapprovable” by USDA for any meat products. So… basically… companies just write it, and don’t need any approval or certification. There is no organization behind this claim other than the company manufacturing or marketing the product. The USDA prohibits the use of hormones in the raising of hogs or poultry ANYWAY in the United States! Therefore animal products that carry the “no hormones administered” label are only REPEATING the regulations that are already in place for pork and poultry TO TRICK YOU! They should not be taken to mean that the manufacturer is doing anything beyond bare minimum USDA requirements. Hormone free should be a GIVEN, why should we settle for anything less?
- Antibiotic Free = Once again, use of the term “antibiotic free” is considered “unapprovable” by USDA on any meat products. There is NO verification system in place. Like I said, antibiotic free should be a given and is the least of your worries. You want GMO-free meat, not just animals that were treated horribly and fed toxic corn but were never given antibiotics.
- Certified Non-GMO = This is the only way you will know a product is scientifically proven to contain ZERO GMOs. The Non-Gmo Project is a third-party company that is not affiliated with any brands or products and therefore is an excellent objective eye. They do not make any money from companies being verified and don’t have their hands in corporations. They simply test products for GMOs, and verify them with a label (above) if they come up clean. Visit nongmoproject.org for a full list of products they have certified.
- Grass-Fed = This claim means that animals were raised on a lifetime diet of 100% grass and forage. Animals must have access to pasture during most of the growing season, and cannot be fed grain or grain products, which can diminish the nutritive benefits of grass feeding. The USDA verifies this claim. You should ONLY be eating grass-fed and pasture raised animals. Not only will this ensure you are not eating GMO animals, this will ensure you are getting high quality meat with CLAs and Omega 3s that will not cause heart disease like conventional red meat.
- Organic/USDA Organic = According to the USDA’s national organic standards, products labeled as “100 percent organic” must contain only organically produced ingredients. To be labeled as just “organic,” 95% of the ingredients must be organically grown and the remaining 5% may be non-organic agricultural ingredients or synthetic substances that have been approved for use in organics by the USDA. Eating food that is organic or non-gmo project verified is the only way you can be certain your food is non-GMO.
- Humane Certified = This label is somewhat meaningful. The program’s standards do require that livestock producers meet basic welfare requirements, which is better than having no humane certification at all.
As you can see, the price difference between the ORGANIC, NON-GMO CERTIFIED cheese and the GMO buzzword cheese is a mere dollar! Now that people are finally starting to become aware of the dangers of our current food system, organic gmo-free food is becoming more widely available and cost-effective. You must read labels. You must decipher buzzwords. You must choose products that clearly state they don’t support genetically engineered ingredients, or even better, use only organic ingredients. The sad truth is that over 90% of most common crops like corn and soy are GM, so you can never be too careful. If it doesn’t say organic, you can bet it’s GMO. Choose the right products, and you will probably only be spending 1-4 dollars more, as seen in this example.