How Food Labels Can Be Harming Messages

Gluten-Free, Free-Range, Cage-Free, Vegan, GMO-Free, whatever the label, you have probably heard about it in one way or another. Food labels can be a very important thing that many companies can use to cater to a certain demographic.

For instance, people who have a gluten intolerance can’t digest gluten, which is a wheat protein. Consuming this protein can cause them to have stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In order to combat this, companies now make certified Gluten Free products, which have become far more popular lately due to high demand. This has even gotten to the point where even restaurants like the pizza place Papa Johns, Dominoes, and Pizza Hut now offer gluten-free crusts.

So the idea behind Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free, etc, have a legitimate meaning, and that meaning should probably be maintained. However, this is not the case for two reasons. Either a company is putting a label on something that doesn’t really mean anything, like “Humanely Raised,” or they are placed on putty much anything.

Have you ever cruised through the grocery store and ran across a product that said it was “made with real fruit!” as a selling point? You probably have at least once, especially if you live in the US or Europe. Needless to say, that label doesn’t necessarily mean that the product was made primarily of fruit, or even using whole fruit. Most of the time they use frozen and sweetened fruit juice concentrates or purees. Not as healthy as one would believe.

Natural is another buzz word that has very little meaning in the marketing world. In fact, it has no meaning at all as of right now, despite the FDA trying to find a good definition for it. One can make pretty much any food product at all, and claim it to be “natural” in order to garner the sales of the more gullible health-savvy shoppers among us.

When you hear the term “Free Range” you might think of some farm on a range, with chickens in a coup, frolicking out in the sun. This is not in any way true, as all Free-range means is that the chickens need to get some undefined amount of sunlight per day, which can easily be 10 minutes before being rustled back into a dark cabin.

“Whole wheat/grain” is one as well, as these products can easily have some whole grains in it, but it is buried under all the refined white flour. Many people buy this bread believing it is healthy, only to feel duped in the long run when they have been eating the same bread the whole time, just with a jacked up price tag.

These labels need to have a defined meaning, or else they could mean anything. Non-GMO labels on canned green beans is a perfect example, as there are no Genetically Modified green beans on the market. The whole thing has gone under recently when bottled water companies started to label their products as Gluten Free and Kosher. Bottled water, with the ingredients being just water with many some nutrients in it, now labeled as Gluten Free, or free of wheat protein. No dip.

If these labels are not meant to have a meaning besides marketing purposes, people are just going to view them as a joke, with many refusing to trust them at all, even if they are genuine. Putting marketing tactics over the consumers head just to earn a few quick bucks from their gullibility and confusion does not make good long-term business practices. If your product can’t sell without an unnecessary or misleading label, then fix your product instead!


About the author

Lucy T

Lucy T

Lifelong writer and lover of research.
Lucy is a freelance writer. She considers herself a researcher since childhood. Her love of research shows true in her work. Her main focus is on journalistic integrity and she adores reading about new things and events that happen in the world.

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  • Food labels are difficult sometimes! I actually ran into some water the other day that claimed to be Gluten Free, like seriously? This is getting way out of hand!

    Although I do agree that labels can be important, it seems to be doing more harm than good in many areas. Like with GMO-free labels, when GMO’s are perfectly healthy!

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