Because we all want to be more "green" and eco-friendly, product marketers know how to capture our attention. Consumers are willing to pay more for products they think are better for the environment or healthier. From 2015 to 2019, sales of consumer goods marketed as eco-friendly grew seven times faster than other products, but stamping a product with various buzzwords can actually be confusing for shoppers.
Here's a little guide to decode those package labels so you get what you think you are getting! And the labels in the opening graphic are all verified and ethical and self-explanatory.
All Natural - This isn't a very useful label. The FDA says these do not contain "artificial ingredients" or food colorings. It doesn't mean they are organic and it doesn't address how foods are processed. It also does not address the nutritional benefit (or lack of). These foods can still contain antibiotics and growth hormones.
Cage Free and Free Range: These animals are free to roam and have unlimited access to food and water. They can be crowded indoors but do have access to the outside. The ultimate in chicken freedom is AWA-Animal Welfare Approved.
Organic: Animals are raised with no antibiotics or hormones and are fed an organic diet without pesticides or fertilizers. Organic foods cannot be grown with any pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. The benefits of this certification needs no further explanation. Buy organic!
Vitamins "Verified" or "Approved" : The FDA does not regulate or test vitamins or other supplements, often called "neutraceuticals" so these labels are worthless. Supplement manufacturers can submit their products for testing and receive labels that say USP or NFS, meaning they contain the ingredients listed. Consumerlab.org, a for-profit company, also tests supplements for ingredients and contaminants.
EWG Verified for personal care products: These products are free of "chemicals of concern". You can find these items rated at ewg.org. I find the site a little difficult to navigate but you can look up products there.
Light, Reduced Fat, Low-Fat, Less-Fat: These labels require you to really think and investigate. Many low fat items contain excessive sugar or artificial sweeteners. When a food label uses the term "light" or "lite," it indicates that a food has one-third fewer calories or 50% less fat, or 50% less sodium than a comparable product. ( Remember, it may still be an unhealthy choice.) A food must have less than 3 grams of fat per serving in order to be called “low-fat.” When it comes to “reduced fat” or “less fat,” the food must be 25% less fat compared with the original food product.
Eating healthy and preserving the planet are worth the effort. We need to go beyond the flashy labels and understand what is worth our money.