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Is Your Product Fresh? 12 Food Packaging Labels Demystified

When scanning the supermarket shelves, health-conscious individuals may purposely seek out words like “natural” and “organic” on food packaging. However, the Food and Drug Administration has expressed difficulty defining what truly constitutes a product as natural, since most packaged goods have been processed in one way or another.

The FDA does specify that food packaging with these labels must not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances in the product. There is concern that without a concrete definition, many food manufacturers may not adhere to the FDA’s loosely outlined definition of “natural,” thus deceiving customers.

Food Labels

Transparency is key with food branding – after all, your packaging is the first thing customers see, and the words that appear on the outside have the power to communicate great things about the product on the inside. Some labels, however, can be confusing to customers. Instead of slapping on trendy buzzwords, the terms on your packaging should authentically represent your company’s goods instead of dizzying consumers with meaningless or made-up phrases.

Lifehacker’s Patrick Allen put together several confusing terms shoppers see on labels when companies don’t quite get the message across in their food branding. Demystifying these 12 words and phrases isn’t just helpful for customers – it’s beneficial for brands to understand what these labels actually mean, why they can be confusing, and which of them truly define their product and communicate their message.

Here’s a sample of popular and misleading food labels:food packaging

Black Angus Beef – This is really just a jazzed up way of saying “lower-grade beef” which many companies use to overcharge customers. Look for meat with a “Certified Angus Beef” label instead, which Allen explains indicates the food actually is of a higher quality.

Humanely Raised and Handled – There are no real standards for what this actually means, so look for real certifications, such as “”Animal Welfare Approved” and “American Humane Certified” instead.

Hormone-Free – Allen explains this is one of the most misleading terms shoppers come across on packaging. Same goes for eggs labeled “antibiotic-free.” Look for the green “USDA Organic” label if you want to find meat that hasn’t been tampered with.

Fresh – Another one of the most deceiving labels, “fresh” can actually be applied to food products that have been coated in wax, given a chlorine or acid wash, and treated with post-harvest pesticides. The FDA only requires that the products given this description are unprocessed, but that doesn’t mean manufactures can’t apply the unappealing-sounding treatments above.

For a full list of deceiving packaging terms, check out Allen’s article, “12 Vague Supermarket Food Labels, Explained.” As a consumer, this is a great informative tool for you to educate yourself before blinding choosing a product. Producers – especially those who maintain sustainable practices in the creation of their food – can benefit by learning the truth about these terms to maintain the integrity of the company and earn customers’ trust.


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Topics: Food Packaging