How to Read Your Food Label
As such, fruits and vegetables from a number of countries are on red alert. Recent Slide Shows Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on all things sustainability. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email firstname.lastname@example.org. More Lindsay Abrams. more victoriaKh/Shutterstock Flagged food imports Lead in candy: The FDA has had imported candy on red alert since 1994, when a contaminated treat entered the country via Mexico. While lead in packaging hasn’t occurred recently, they still see cases of lead coming from unwashed chili peppers used as an ingredient. Previous Alexander Raths/Shutterstock Flagged food imports Unapproved drugs in seafood: A number of international aquaculture operations on are alert for using unapproved drugs in that could make seafood unsafe for consumers. Previous Wikimedia Commons Flagged food imports Mad cow disease risk in supplements: The USDA’s prohibition on imports of meat from countries with a history ofbovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease, doesn’t apply to dietary supplements , prompting the FDA to closely monitor shipments for the disease which, as it notes, is “extremely resistant to activation by normal disinfection or sterilization procedure.” Previous Wikimedia Commons Flagged food imports Cocaine in tea: The FDA’s been on alert ever since 1986, whenthe DEA cracked down on herbal tea made from “decocainized coca leaves” sent to Hawaii, Georgia, Chicago and various East Coast locations. Previous Wikimedia Commons Flagged food imports Melamine in milk: Milk products from China have been flagged since the 2008 infant formula scandal , in which thousands of babies were sickened, and several died, after consuming contaminated formula. The problem of melamine, according to the FDA, is a recurring one — inspection officials are also on the lookout for anything containing milk as an ingredient, including yogurt, frozen desserts, biscuits, cakes and cookies, taffy-like soft candy products, chocolates and beverages. Previous esbobeldijk/Shutterstock Flagged food imports Metals in fruit juice: Heavy lead and arsenic contamination has been found in fruit juice concentrates from Argentina and China. A single 8 ounce serving of grape juice found in a shipment from 2002 contained three times the amount of lead judged to be tolerable for children.
(Some brands appeared more than once on the list.) Nearly 80% of the 49 food products were “energy-dense and nutrient-poor,” and 93% of the 73 beverages got all of their calories from added sugar, according to the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Also Addicted to added sugar? It’s 13% of calories consumed by Americans The researchers noted “a striking irony of having someone so physically fit as these athletes promoting such unhealthy foods,” lead researcher Marie Bragg of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity said in a telephone interview. And, they said, adolescents ages 12 to 17 were the group that saw the most of such commercials. “It would be ideal if athletes stopped promoting unhealthful food,” Bragg said. “But thats a tall order given how much money is involved.” But, she said, she hopes to see such endorsements become a liability for athletes. Andy Bellatti, a registered dietitian and co-founder of the group Dietitians for Professional Integrity, agreed. “We have to reach that tipping point where advertising for soda is seen as irresponsible,” he said, especially because so many children looked up to sports stars. Sports beverages were the largest category of athlete endorsements, with 39, followed by soft drinks with 21 and fast food with 16, the researchers wrote. The products in tennis star Serena Williams’ ads had the worst scores for nutrition. Manning had the most ads for food and beverages with 25, followed by baseball player Ryan Howard with 21. Howard, the researchers wrote, endorsed the fewest energy-dense, nutrient-poor products. Underlying the research is a recommendation from the World Health Organization for policies limiting young people’s exposure to food advertising. “Professional athletes are in a unique position to use their highly visible status to promote healthy messages to youth,” the researchers wrote.
Those opposed to labeling say it will falsely mislead consumers into thinking that products that contain genetically engineered ingredients are “somehow different, unsafe or unhealthy,” said Brian Kennedy of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a food industry group based in Washington, D.C. “I-522 is a complex, costly and misleading initiative that will raise grocery costs for Washington state consumers at a time when few can afford it,” he said. Genetically engineered crops have a gene from another plant inserted into them to give them some ability they didn’t have before. There are two common genetic modifications. One is for herbicide tolerance: Plants are given a gene that protects them from harm when a farmer sprays them with herbicides to kill weeds. The other is a gene from a soil bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis that allows plants to produce their own insecticide. In the United States a huge proportion of commodity crops are genetically engineered: 97% of the nation’s sugar beets, 93% of the soybeans, 90% of the cotton and 90% of the feed corn, according to the 2013 figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About 60% of the papaya grown in the United States, all in Hawaii, has been genetically engineered to allow it to withstand the ringspot virus, which virtually wiped out papaya production in the islands in the 1980s, according to International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. Very small amounts of genetically engineered zucchini, yellow squash and sweet corn are also sold in the United States. Connecticut passed GMO labeling legislation in June, but it doesn’t go into effect until four other New England states pass labeling laws. Maine has passed a bill that won’t go into effect “until five other states, or any amount of states with a total population of 20 million, enact” a similar one. Maine’s governor has said he will sign it in January. “Basically, they don’t want to go it alone,” says Rebecca Spector with the Center for Food Safety, which supports labeling. “They want other states in their region to pass it, so if there is a legal challenge, they can pool resources to support each other.” The Food and Drug Administration does not require foods containing genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled because it considers them “functionally equivalent” to conventionally grown crops.
How to Read a Food Label Start at the top The first place to start when you look at the nutrition facts panel is the serving size and the number of servings in the container. In general, serving sizes are standardized in order to make it easier to compare similar foods; they are provided in familiar units, such as cups or pieces, followed by the metric amount, e.g., the number of grams. Be aware that the portion size suggested on the label may not coincide with the recommended serving size on health organization sites such as the USDA’s MyPyramid site. Overall, as you move down the nutrition facts panel, you’ll notice that the nutrients toward the top are ones to limit (such as total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, etc.), and the nutrients towards the bottom (fiber, various vitamins) are the nutrients to focus on for better health. How to Read a Food Label Calories The label will list the number of calories per serving (again, be sure to check out the serving size, and try measuring out the portion). In general, the following calorie ranges apply to foods: Low calorie foods: Fewer than 40 calories per serving Moderate calorie foods: 100 calories per serving High calorie foods: More than 400 calories per serving How to Read a Food Label Total fat As an athlete, you need to consume some fat (really, there’s no need to be afraid of fat), but you don’t need to exist on fat alone. In general, approximately 25 percent of your calories comes from fat (the rest from carbohydrates and protein). Aim for most of your fats to come from plants, as the fat they supply is generally heart-healthy. In general, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the best choices. How to Read a Food Label Saturated fat Design your diet so that less than 10 percent of your total calories comes from saturated fat. For optimal health, keep this number below 7 percent; the less saturated fat, the better! How to Read a Food Label Trans fat Keep this unhealthy fat as low as possible. In general, less than 2 grams per day is recommended. How to Read a Food Label Polyunsaturated (PUFA) and monounsaturated (MUFA) fats These heart-healthy fats are good choices and often come from vegetable oils. The majority of fats in your diet should be PUFA and MUFAs.