Label jargonese

Maybe you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but you sure can judge a snack food by it’s marketing jargon.

Figuring out what the package really means is sort of like learning a new language. But jargonese isn’t as hard to learn as, say, Mandarin. It’s more like learning pig latin, if pig latin was created by people trying to trick you into buying food that isn’t as good as they want you to think it is.

Words like “Natural”, “Premium”, and “Super-Premium” have no real meaning. They are not FDA regulated terms and can be used on any food product regardless of ingredients. For example, Trader Joe’s All Natural Joe Joe’s sandwich cookies. The phrase “All Natural” may make you feel like your buying a healthy option, but it’s just jargonese for “buy these cookies and feel better about buying cookies.” Same with that Super-premium Ice Cream.

“Organic” is a regulated term and does mean something. It means the product contains 95% organic ingredients. A product could also say “100% Organic,” which means it can only contain organic ingredients — no antibiotics, hormones, genetic engineering, radiation or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers were used. If you see “Made with Organic Ingredients” it means the product is made with 70% organic ingredients.

Strangely enough, if a food is colored with beet juice, the coloring has to be labeled as “artificial coloring.” But that’s a topic for another day.

So next time you’re in the grocery store, judge the food you buy on the ingredients and what you know about food, and remember not to be swayed by marketing jargonese.

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