Nutrition Labels Are Not Always Accurate

If you venture into a store and saw sugar free cookies on the shelf and they tasted too good to be true, you may doubt they are sugar free. In your moment of doubt you look down at the nutrition label and verify that the cookies do not, in fact, contain sugar. “WOW! If the label states the cookies are sugar free, it must be true”, or at least that is what you believe. Let me be the first to tell you that not only is there no Easter Bunny but that nutrition labels are providing incorrect information approximately 10% of the time. You may think there is an entire Washington D.C. building bustling with with nutrition soldiers and technicians wearing lab coats. The sad reality is that the Easter Bunny will visit you before that building will be built. The FDA does not regularly check nutrition labels at all. There are only a handful of organizations that police the labels that are on the food you eat today. The one big testing agency is, believe it or not, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. They test a tiny percentage of products yearly, along with Consumer Lab and Good Housekeeping Institute. There really is no centralized consumer guru agency that enforces the label law of the land. As a result, the Easter Bunny has become a free range animal and label lawlessness runs rampant throughout the land.

With the explosion of fad diets hitting the market trendy food makers can make claims that are outright lies. By the time one of the handful of agencies MIGHT get around to testing the label, the diet trend is over and the package of food no longer occupies shelf space. If a product should break the norm and get caught providing false information. the penalty is minimal. In Florida, violators receive one violation notice and, if the product isn’t corrected, they receive a $500.00 fine for subsequent violations. In the billion dollar food market just how relevant is a $500.00 fine?

When ConsumerLab.Com tested 34 nutrition bars, they found that three bars failed and one had 33%more carbohydrates than listed; another contained 50% more fat that displayed on the label. When most companies are confronted they correct the labels. But the question remains…What about all the others? A list could be created here with ease that contains many of the errors that have been found on food labels. The point is to make you aware that labels are not always what they appear to be. Our government does a poor job on enforcing the standard they have imposed. There is a simple way to perform a quick cross reference right there in the grocery aisle. The methodology for determining the total number of calories is to calculate calorie content but first you must first know how many grams of fat, carbohydrates and protein are in the product. Fat has 9 calories a gram and protein and carbohydrates each have 4 calories a gram. Knowing this, it should be simple multiplication and addition to determine total caloric content.

In this example multiply how many fat grams by 9. Then take the number of protein grams and multiply by 4. Then do the same thing with the carbohydrates. When you add up these three numbers they should equal the total calories per serving. One thing to note is that manufacturers always round down the numbers so the total may not be dead on. With this simple formula it becomes easy to spot those labels that may be incorrect. Remember, if it tastes too good to be true it probably is not true. Food labels should be always looked upon as only a starting point. If it appears too good to be true then maybe the numbers have been fudged.

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