Food Label Language Lessons


This term is actually regulated by the government. In order for a product to be labled “organic” the producers or farmers must go through a lot of verification. As far as produce, everything from fertilizers, pesticides, the seed, control of contamination from other fields are examined. For livestock, the feed must be certified organic, and inoculations and hormones are not to be added.

The darker side of the USDA
According to the Washington Post, “Under the original organics law, 5 percent of a USDA-certified organic can consist of non-organic substances, provided they are approved by the National Organic Standards Board. Since its creation in 2002, that list has grown from 77 to 245 substances. The goal was to shrink the list over time, but only one item has been removed so far.

However, with all that is being added to conventional fruits, vegetables, and meats; the organic alternative is definitely more congruent with what our ancestors and even our grandparents grew up eating.

A quick tip to help in your shopping – look to the PLU code

PLU codes are used to help store clerks with the price of the product, but you can use it too!

  • Conventional fruit has four digits – which will start with a 3 or 4.
  • Genetically modified food has 5 digits and starts with an 8.
  • Organic fruit also has 5 digits, but begins with a nine.


Unlike with “organic”, companies wanting to call a product “natural” don’t have to go through a verification process to use the term.

Common “Natural” products?

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Partially hydrogenated oils
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Natural = no regulation!!!

“Made with real fruit”

Basically, this means that it only requires one drop of orange juice or one grape is needed for this to be accurate. My favorite examples are the smoothies from fast food restaurants. The only “real fruit” is the fruit on the topping with is immersed in syrup! The rest contains no fruit juice or actual fruit!

“Whole Grains”

– “Made with whole grains” – be careful what you’re paying for – for this statement to be accurate, all it needs is one tiny tiny bit of whole grains.

– “Wheat flour” or “100% wheat” – again, just a play on words – look for whole wheat

– “whole grain” – sorry, again… Search out “100% whole grain” otherwise, you’re paying too much.

– “good source” – has no regulation – doesn’t mean it has a lot of the nutrient – only that it’s a source.

– Finally, if your bread contains the words “plant cellulose”…RUN! There have been a few “health” breads out there claiming to have “twice the fiber without the cost” – and it’s because the fiber they are adding is sawdust!

Upcoming articles:

  • Part 2 – food label language
  • Ingredient AKA’s for MSG and why MSG is so bad for you.
  • More food label marketing ploys.
  • The Toxic 12 of Personal Care Products
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