Food Labeling: Helpful or Harmful? - Food Dialogues

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Food Labeling: Helpful or Harmful?

Food companies are stocking grocery store shelves with products that tout absence claims like non-GMO, antibiotic-free and hormone-free, all in the name of transparency. But is it really transparency, or is it fear marketing? When we hear something is “free” of an ingredient, we tend to automatically think it must be better for us. We also might become wary of the ingredient that has been removed — because if it was taken out, it must be harmful, right? But is it really?

Take, for example, hormone-free chicken and pork. The packages labeled “no hormones added” must mean the products are superior to those without these labels, right? The answer is a definite no. It’s illegal to give hormones to poultry and pigs. In other words, no pig or poultry products have added hormones.

So why do only some packages mark it? Some companies think it gives them the competitive selling edge. And for confused and overwhelmed consumers, it does. What about non-GMO tomatoes and orange juice? There are currently only 10 GM crops that are currently (or soon will be) commercially available. Guess what? Oranges and tomatoes aren’t on that list.

In a food company’s quest to be transparent, this is the opposite. Transparency is informing consumers about the GM crops available (squash, cotton, soybeans, sweet and field corn, papaya, alfalfa, sugar beets, canola, potatoes, and apples). Do you see wheat or oats on that list? Nope, but a lot of wheat- and oat-based products love to use the “non-GMO” label to persuade shoppers that they’re somehow better or healthier than the alternative.


Story originally published at, republished with permission.