11 Most Deceptive Food Labels

By Ekaterina Morrissey

Do you spend a long time in the supermarket aisles reading labels and wondering which item is better than the other due to health claims written on the packages?  Do you often feel frustrated and hopeless not knowing which to believe and how to properly read the labels?  If so, you are not alone.  According to a survey, about 60% of consumers don’t understand food labels.  My one and only intention with this article is to expose deceptive labels and the frauds food companies want you to believe; so that you don’t waste your hard earned money on their cheaply made, with even cheaper ingredients, product and be healthier.  So, let’s dig in!

1. “Cholesterol Free” 

I love this one!  Cholesterol is made by the liver, so unless you are buying meat, butter, dairy or eggs, plant based foods can not contain cholesterol!  I have seen “Cholesterol Free” on some vegetable oils, pasta sauces or cereal boxes, misleading people to buy it, thinking it is healthy.

2. “Organic”

Unfortunately, manufacturers are given the chance to manipulate with the term “organic.”  “Contains organic ingredients” means that the food contains less than 70% organic ingredients and lacks the USDA seal.  A label that says “Made with organic ingredients” has to have a minimum of 70% organic ingredients to meet the standard.  It should display which are the organic ingredients used and will not display the USDA seal.  The remaining 30% of ingredients could be anything but healthy.   Only if the product has the USDA seal that says “Certified Organic” does it mean that 100% of the ingredients are processed or grown in organic environments.  “Organic” on the label may or may not have the USDA seal, and means 95% or more of the ingredients are organic.  Also, remember, organic doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.  Organic sugar, fruit juice, or chocolate beverages are still loaded with organic sugar.  But sugar is sugar and will still affect your health. 

3. “Free Range”

One of the most misleading statements!  USDA regulations for “Free Range” are only for poultry raised for meat.  Not eggs!  The animal has to have access to the outdoors, but how long it roamed there (just a few minutes or the whole day) and how freely (being over crowded or not), remains mystery to us.  “Free range” is absolutely not regulated for cattle, pigs, and egg-producing chickens. 

4. “Raised Without Added Hormones”

By law, hormones cannot be used for pigs and poultry, so the use of “Hormone free” or “Raised without hormones” on the label of pork and poultry is there with the intention to fool you into thinking you are buying a better product that is worth its higher price.  Unless you are buying organic, free range, cage free, and grass fed chicken that has the “USDA process verified” shield, don’t pay higher prices for the conventionally raised poultry or pork.

5. “All Natural”

“All Natural” is complete All-Nonsense!  There are NO regulations by any law about the definition of “All Natural.”  High fructose corn syrup, MSG, and arsenic, to name a few, are “all natural” since they are derived from nature-made grain, soil, and seaweed.  In fact, be aware when you see the “All Natural” claim on a package – it is a staple ploy to take your attention away from the ingredient list on the back, which, I’d put my money on, is filled with names you can’t pronounce.  Walk away.

6. “No MSG,” “No MSG Added,” or “No Added MSG” 

That requires that the label cannot read “monosodium glutamate.”  Well, there are 50+ other food additives that contain hidden MSG (read more about MSG in my article, http//www.DiscoverYourHealthCoach/The-MSG-Effect).  One example for such a fraud is “Simply Organic” Macaroni & Cheese – “Our products DO NOT contain MSG,” but the ingredients list reads… “Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, natural flavors, organic autolyzed yeast extract…” all of which contain a form of MSG.  All salad dressings, sauces, pre-made and frozen foods, soups, frozen pizzas, broths and stocks (liquid and cubes), contain (hidden under another name) MSG.

7. “Sugar Free,” “No Sugar Added”

This is a huge red flag for the presence of artificial sweeteners!  In some cases it may contain high fructose corn syrup or beet sugar.  Stay away from anything with that “health claim.”

8. “No Trans-Fat”

Trans-fats are man-made saturated fats, which are found in all junk food and are a huge health hazard.  Because of the FDA’s current requirements, if a food contains less than 0.49 grams of trans-fat, the food manufacturer is permitted to list the amount as 0 trans-fats on the ingredients list.  So, here you go, you might be consuming 3-5 grams of trans-fat a day and not even know it.  By the way, there is NO safe minimum consumption amount for trans-fats!  Look the ingredients list – if you don’t see “partially hydrogenated oils” listed, the trans-fat content is zero.

9. “Nutrition Facts” Label

What most people don’t know is that FDA allows food manufacturers to use averages for salt content, fat content and calorie counts, and here is the worst part: they are allowed to be off as much as 20%.  This means that you thought you just ate a dinner that has 500 calories, when in fact you consumed 600 calories.  If every meal you ate had extra 100 calories, you would gain an extra 30 pounds in a year’s time.

10. “High In Fiber”

This is pure manipulation of the term “fiber!”  What food companies are using is “fiber” additives like maltodextrin which, by the way, is made from GMO corn, wheat, rice or potato starch and polydextrose, made from glucose and sorbitol.  Another gimmick!

11. Don’t be fooled by the name of the product!

For example, a “fruit” product often doesn’t contain any of the fruits on the picture, a “cheese” cracker more often than not doesn’t contain any cheese.  A great example of such deception is the famous “Guacamole Dip” which actually contains NO avocadoes.  It’s made with hydrogenated soybean oil and artificial green color.  Don’t be fooled by “brown” products to think they are healthier than white products.  Brown eggs are the same as white, they just have a brownish shell color.  Brown sugar is white sugar with brown coloring and flavoring added.  Brown bread, unless is made from unbleached whole grains, is just a white bread with caramel coloring.  These are just tricks used by the food corporations to make you believe you are buying a healthy product when in fact you are wasting your money on your own poison.  Doesn’t seems so appealing now, does it?


The Blunt Truth:

The sole purpose of the food industries is to make money.  They are not in business to keep you healthy, slim or happy. The human race survived just fine before they existed; in fact, people were much healthier, fit and happier.  Food companies work hand in hand with Big Pharma for obvious reasons.  They both make money at the expense of the consumer – me and you.  Deceptive food labels and misleading health claims on the packages are the #1 tool created by the food manufacturer highly paid marketing teams in order to have their product sold to you.

The answer is in black and white.

You can decide to be at the mercy of the food giants, who couldn’t care less about you, OR you can decide to take the reins of your own life and embrace a healthy lifestyle.  A healthy lifestyle is built when you know you are eating foods with no ingredient list and without pesticides, GMO free, mostly home cooked and well balanced, enjoying a healthy relationship and friendships, having an exercise routine at least 5 days a week and are able to deal with stress in a pleasurable manner.  How can you do it?  You need support system if you don’t have one (hire a health coach, nutritionist, weight-loss coach, personal trainer), and a solid action plan.  And the most important thing – 100% commitment.

  1. Thanks for writing this. I was just made aware not to long ago the most items that say blueberry or show blueberries on the packaging actually contain apple chips or apple mash that is dyed with red and blue dye and then flavoured with artificial blueberry flavouring. I was pretty mad that I was “had” like that. Now i look at every package that claims blueberries to see for myself! SO MAD!!!

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