Food manufacturers think you’re stupid. And their marketing strategies rely on it. Take candy products, such as Swedish Fish, Mike and Ike, and Good & Plenty, for example. Their packages boast the claim “Fat Free.” It’s completely true, however—these empty-calorie junk foods are made almost entirely of sugar and processed carbs.
See, the makers of the aforementioned candies may be hoping you’ll equate “fat-free” with “healthy” or “non-fattening,” so you’ll forget about all the sugar their products contain. It’s a distraction device; Food companies advertise what they want you to notice—and the candy aisle is just the start.
That’s why the authors of the new book Eat This, Not That! The Best and Worst Foods in America! scoured grocery-store shelves to expose the secrets that food-industry insiders don’t want you to know. The ones they use to prey on your expectations, your wallet, and, most important, your well-being. Use our crib sheet, though, and you can beat Big Food at its own game.
Secret No. 1: The fuzzy numbers
Keebler doesn’t want you to know that numbers can be deceiving. On the front of a box of reduced-fat Club Crackers—in large, yellow letters—you’ll find the claim, “33percent Less Fat Than Original Club Crackers.” The math is accurate: The original product contains 3 grams of fat per serving, while the reduced-fat version has 2 grams. So statistically, it’s a 33 percent difference. But is it meaningful? And why doesn’t Keebler tout that its reduced fat cracker has 33 percent more carbs than the original? Maybe the company simply doesn’t want you to know that when it removes 1 gram of fat, it replaces it with 3 grams of refined flour and sugar—hardly a healthy trade-off. Check out our list of the 18 worst packaged food lies to see what other claims the food companies are fudging.
Secret No. 2:The undeserved reputation
Beverage makers don’t want you to know that the bottled green tea you’re drinking may not be as healthy as you think it is. Last year, we commissioned ChromaDex Laboratories to analyze 14 different bottled green teas for their levels of catechins, the healthful antioxidants in tea that are thought to fight disease. The finding: Catechin content varied widely among brands. While Honest Tea Organic Honey Green Tea topped the charts with an impressive 215 milligrams of total catechins, some products hardly even registered on the antioxidant scale. For instance, Republic of Tea Pomegranate Green Tea had just 9 milligrams and Ito En Tea’s Tea Lemongrass Green had just 28 milligrams.
Secret No. 3:The maggot allowance
Food companies don’t want you to know that your food can legally contain maggots. Sure, the FDA limits the amount of these and other appetite killers in your food, that but limit isn’t zero. The following allowances aren’t harmful to your health—but we can’t promise that the thought of them won’t make you sick.
||Can contain up to…
||20 percent positive mold tests
||5 fly eggs and 1 maggot per 500 grams
||60 mites per 100 grams
||400 insect fragments and 11 rodent hairs per 50 grams
||30 insect fragments and 1 rodent hair per 100 grams
||20 gnawed grains or 2 rodent hairs per pound
||6 percent rotten chips
Secret No. 4: The carbo-loaded Corn Flakes
Kellogg’s doesn’t want you to know that its Corn Flakes aren’t as diabetes-friendly as the “Diabetes Friendly” logo on the box’s side panel suggests. Australian researchers have shown that carb-loaded cornflakes raise blood glucose faster and to a greater extent than straight table sugar does. (High blood glucose is the primary indicator of diabetes—if you suffer from diabetes or pre-diabetes, be sure to avoid any of the items on our list of the 20 most sugar-packed foods in America.) Beneath the logo, the cereal maker does provide a link to its Web site where general nutrition recommendations are provided for people with diabetes. But those recommendations are simply “based on” the guidelines of the American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetes Association, not endorsed by those organizations.
Secret No. 5:The sugar-packed “healthy” cereal
Quaker doesn’t want you to know that some of its “heart healthy” hot cereals have more sugar than a bowl of Froot Loops. One example: Quaker Instant Oatmeal Maple & Brown Sugar. Sure, the company proudly displays the American Heart Association logo on the product’s box. However, the fine print below the logo reads that the product simply meets the AHA’s “food criteria for saturated fat and cholesterol.” So it could contain a pound of sugar and still qualify. But guess what? Froot Loops meets the AHA’s criteria, too, only no logo is displayed. That’s because …
Secret No. 6:The “pay to play” rules
The food industry doesn’t want you to know that companies must pay for a product to be an American Heart Association-certified food. That’s why the AHA check mark might appear on one product but not on another, even when both meet the guidelines.
Secret No. 7:The checkout line wallet trap
Supermarkets don’t want you to know that long checkout lines can make you buy more. If you’re stuck in a line, you’ll be up to 25 percent more likely to buy the candy and sodas around you, according to research from the University or Arizona. The authors found that the more exposure people have to temptation, the more likely they are to succumb to it. This may also help explain why supermarkets place common staples likes milk, bread, and eggs at the rear of the store, forcing you to run the gauntlet of culinary temptation.
Secret No. 8:The food additive–ADHD link
The food industry doesn’t want you to know that food additives may make your kids misbehave. U.K. researchers found that some artificial food colorings and preservatives are linked to hyperactivity in children. The additives included Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 6, Red No. 40, and sodium benzoate, all of which are commonly found in packaged foods in the United States. While the researchers don’t know whether a combination of the chemicals is to blame or there’s a single primary culprit, you can find Red No. 40, yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6 in Skittles, and sodium benzoate in some soft drinks. Check out our list of the 11 most controversial food additives to learn what else is lurking in your meals.
Secret No. 9: The fat-free fakeout
Land O’Lakes doesn’t want you to know that there’s no such thing as fat-free half-and-half. That’s because, by definition, half-and-half contains between 10.5 percent and 18 percent butterfat. So what exactly is the product that Land O’Lakes calls “Fat Free Half & Half”? Skim milk—to which a thickening agent and an artificial cream flavor have been added. You may be disappointed in the payoff; One tablespoon of traditional half-and-half contains 20 calories; the fat-free version has 20. And after all, how much are you really going to consume?
Secret No. 10:The truth about lean meat
The meat industry doesn’t want you to know that the leanest cuts may have the highest sodium levels. The reason: When you remove fat, you lose juiciness. To counteract this dried-out effect, some manufacturers “enhance” poultry, pork, and beef products by pumping them full of a solution that contains water, salt, and other nutrients that help give them flavor. This practice can dramatically boost the meat’s sodium level. Consuming excess sodium is a real problem for people who have high blood pressure—if your sodium intake is substantially greater than your potassium intake, your blood pressure could skyrocket.
To put it in perspective: A 4-ounce serving of Shady Brook Farms Fresh Boneless Turkey Tenderloin that hasn’t been enhanced contains 55 milligrams of sodium. But the same size serving of Jennie-O Turkey Breast Tenderloin Roast Turkey, which is enhanced by up to 30 percent, packs 840 milligrams.
Secret No. 11:The not-so-“good source”
Food companies don’t want you to know what the phrase “good source” actually means. No doubt you’ve seen the claim on labels in every section of your supermarket that a product is a “good source” of one or more vitamins or minerals. But here’s what you need to know: To be considered a good source of a specific vitamin or mineral, a serving must contain only 10 percent of the recommended daily value for that nutrient. For perspective, take Nabisco Honey Teddy Grahams, which, the label says, are a “Good Source of Calcium.” But you’d have to eat 10 servings—the entire box and then some—to hit the amount of calcium you need for the day. Now think about it: Is that really a good source?
Secret No. 12:The 100-calorie pack cost
Chex doesn’t want you to know that its 100-calorie pack may be a rip-off. In a 2007 study, Brown University researchers found that people at the same amount of cookies and chips regardless of whether they ate from a large, multi-serving bag or single-serving packs. The key factor: The actual amount of cookies or chips people kept in their homes. Sure, self-control is still your responsibility, but here’s the bigger secret: Companies often charge you double for snack-size portions. Take Chex Mix Cheddar, for example, which costs 2.13 times more per gram when packages in 100-calorie packs than when sold in a normal 8.75-ounce bag.
Secret No. 13: The calorie under-count
Food companies don’t want you to know that their calorie counts may be wrong. That’s because in order to make sure you’re getting at least as much as you pay for, the FDA is more likely to penalize a food manufacturer for overstating the net weight of a product than for understating it. As a result, it seems that manufacturers often either “generously” package more food than the stated net weight or make servings heavier than the stated serving-size weight. That means you may be eating more calories than you think. Case in point: Using an ordinary food scale, we found that based on the actual weight of a serving, Back to Nature classic granola contained 244 calories—64 more calories than the number listed. Yet another reason to eat with caution.
Provided to MSN by Men’s Health
If the claims here are true it’s a little alarming I think…I checked the FDA website, and couldn’t find anything showing what’s “acceptable” when it comes to the things described in the articles. I will continue to research the claims in the article and will update with anything I find. If you would like to share information on this topic please leave a comment.