What’s in a name?

Food Labels

I guess we’re all inherently trusting and that’s why marketing works! There’s an article in Which magazine this month (March 2012 – Food & Health/Food labelling) exposing how we’re being duped by food marketing campaigns on numerous fronts.

Supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer’s have Lochmuir salmon – but no such place actually exists – and Tesco have invented Willow Farm chicken. Basically there is no rule about using names or fictitious locations to brand products (expect those like Stilton cheese and Cornish clotted cream which have Protected Geographical Status). So companies can create the illusion of homely, happy places where their produce supposedly comes from to help sell their products to us, the unsuspecting consumer.

Also along these lines, the phrases ‘farm fresh’ and ‘farm raised’ have no legal definition either. They are used in marketing foods just to evoke a sense of freshness and heartiness. Which leads us to words like ‘hearty’, ‘crisp’, ‘succulent’ which are used to allude to emotions of happy memories or sensory luxury.

What I find more serious is the legality of terms such as ‘flavour’ compared to ‘flavoured’. It’s such a minor variation – so the difference is? Basically ‘flavour’ means it’s an artificial ingredient which makes something taste like a particular flavour whereas ‘flavoured’ means it has to have that natural ingredient. For example: ‘strawberry flavour’ can be artificial but ‘strawberry flavoured’ must contain strawberry concentrate.

My pet hate, although not really under the same banner as above, are the ‘low fat’ and ‘fat free’ labels. Not because ‘low fat’ is not lower fat than the full fat version, but because of the deception involved. The reason being that ‘low fat’ and ‘fat free’ are marketed as being a good food choice if you want to lose weight. However these products contain higher sugar levels than the full fat product! This is because sugar needs to be added to create flavour since the fat has been removed. And as we now know, it is not fat that makes you fat but sugar!!!! (See my previous blogs – The Low Fat Brainwash, Brain Food & Sugar Sucks! – for more detail)

The same can be said about ‘No Added Sugar’ or ‘Sugar Free’ as these usually contain artificial sweeteners instead and as mentioned in my blog – Sugar Sucks! – these can actually make the craving for sugar worse as the brain is not tricked as easily as the taste buds!

Even more unbelievable than all of this marketing hype – I was in Tesco a few months ago looking at their bread and noticed that there were no ingredients mentioned anywhere. When I asked the Manager about it, his reply was that as the bread was actually baked in that shop they did not legally have to list the ingredients or nutritional breakdown! Amazing!

So if you’re interested in your health or the provenance of your food, then read the ingredients and don’t get duped by marketing hype words. Or better still don’t buy anything that requires an ingredients label (or supermarket baked bread)!

But as we need to be realistic that we’re not always going to cook everything from scratch at least put health over vanity and wear your reading glasses when shopping.

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