Words on Food Labels That Are……Kinda Stupid

Janet from Nutrition Unplugged writes about words on food labels she doesn’t like:

There are certain words used to describe foods that make me cringe. I wish we could officially retire them.

I don’t mean health claims on food labels; that’s an entirely different story (and I’ve covered that quite a bit in the past).  Now I’m talking about words that are frequently used in articles about nutrition or on TV food segments. Sometimes they’re used in the titles of recipes or featured on restaurant menus.  Or maybe you just hear your friends use these words to describe specific foods.

Her four are:

  • Guilt-free
  • Sinful
  • Decadent
  • Fattening

Not a bad list. I agree.  The use of buzz words to create desirable mood affiliations is a common tactic in practically any venue of persuasion (advertising, politics, negotations, etc), and the food industry is no different.  We are slaves to our frames of reference. Everyone has to communicate their benefits somehow, but quite a few words carry connotations that really bare little resemblance to reality. The previous four are certainly true, and I’ll add four more.

So what are words on food labels that create false impressions?

1). Neuro

Neuro Bliss: A Scam Health FoodThe word Neuro is often used on food labels to give the impression that food will help your brain or make you smarter.  A popular food right now using it on their labels is the “Neuro Bliss” line of drinks, which are mostly sugar water.  And expensive! This is a dubious claim, since your brain retrieves nutrients from your body just like every other organ.  And in the absence of special conditions there’s no particular reason a particular food will benefit your brain beyond what you ought to include in a healthy diet.

 

Skinny Cow label

2). Skinny and Thin

Often attached to otherwise fattening foods  to give the impression that a particular food is less decadent than similar counterparts or to feminize them. “Skinny Cow” products are a popular line right now, and so are Think Thin health bars. Neither are that great health wise, and people have enough unhealthy infatuations with their body image anyways. Why add to the confusion? Especially when ice cream and chocolate coated health bars will do little to help you get there anyway.

Deceptive Food Word: Overusing the Word "No"

3). Excessive Use of the word “No”

Lots of health foods use claims like “No this, No that, No etc,…..” to give the impression that their particular line of products has unique health benefits distinct from similar ones. More often than not this effect is illusory since the “No……” claims are just as true for the less expensive counterparts, except they don’t bother to put it on their label. I wrote before how gourmet potato chip brands use this tactic all the time. The vast majority of potato chips have no particular health benefits between them.

Deceptive Food Tactic: No Artificial Flavors

4). Artifical and Natural Flavoring

Not technically one word, but close enough. When it comes to food labels, the differences between natural and artificial flavors are more ironic than anything else.

To be classified as a “natural” flavor, the original flavoring compound has to be derived from natural ingredients. However, that says nothing about the process a natural ingredient goes through before it’s included in foods. Often times natural flavors are literally produced in the same laboratories that create artificial ones, and the manufacturing processes are usually just as rigorous if not moreso to create a finished product.

The distinction is not useful in many cases.

There’s more to list, and I’d suggest reading the comments in her post will give you a few more ideas.

Also feel free to add your own here :)

 

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Comments

  1. I’d also add the word “free.” Like No, it seems to be a popular way to frame a particular food item, because something free of salt, cholesterol, fat, etc must also be free of other things and have good health benefits.

  2. I’m not sure if it counts yet, but the word “Raw” keeps coming up more and more. Larabar now has a raw chocolate chip cooke dough bar….not sure how that works.

    • Raw by and large, still holds its value fairly well, but the biggest problem with it (I think) is that for raw bars to taste good you have to put a lot of dates in them, which have a very high sugar content, and not a whole lot of nutrients. Still better than a lot of other food bars.

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