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Have you read any good labels lately?

Marilyn Nefer Ra BarberBy Marilyn Nefer Ra Barber
Special to the Michigan Citizen

When grocery shopping, we usually buy food based on what is on the front label. That label is there to entice you to buy their product. It has all the buzz words like gluten-free, reduced calorie, low fat, no fat, all natural ingredients and maybe even organic.

How many times have you picked up a bottle because of what was listed on the front and never gave the back label a second thought?

Food labeling is required for most foods. Under the umbrella foods are bread, cereal, canned and frozen foods, snacks, desserts and drinks as well as fruits and vegetables. Food labels are beneficial by letting you know what the product’s ingredients are, how many calories, portion size, what location or facility the product was made.

Labeling is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirement. Nutritional labeling, however, is usually located on the back of the product. You must list all ingredients of food. Labels give you information that can help you decide what to choose for a health eating plan. It also tells you where the country of origin the food comes from and whether it is natural or organic.

After finally convincing my daughter to drink healthier beverages, she decided to start drinking smoothies. I was really proud of her.

Unfortunately, the next day, she told me the juice she decided to include in her diet contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and synthetic ingredients that are formulated from a carcinogen formaldehyde byproduct. She still drinks healthy beverages, but she reads the back and front of labels now.

Can we depend on food stores to be honest with us regarding products they sell us?  Whole Foods Market is the world’s leading natural and organic grocer. In March, Whole Foods took action to support the consumer’s right to know what is in their food. Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, said: “Simply put, I think our customers have a right to know what’s in their food. It’s fundamental. I think our company’s responsibility to be more transparent in bringing those products to the marketplace, working together with suppliers … is really important.

“We have been in support of mandatory labeling since 1992. This issue really has not gotten any traction over all of these years. Now the lack of mandatory labeling in the United States and prevalence of GMOs in the food supply make it increasingly difficult for retailers such as ourselves to offer these choices to our customers and for customers to find them.”

This can give you a sigh of relief, but do we all shop at Whole Foods Markets? If you want to be informed before going to the store, you might want to check out the Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization committed to preserving and building the non-GMO food supply, educating consumers and providing verified non-GMO choices. They believe everyone deserves to be informed about whether or not to consume GMOs.

For those of you with smartphones, a great tool to use while at the grocery store is the app Fooducate. With it, you can scan the labels on your food items and find out what is exactly in your food regardless of what the labels read.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Web site,, provides all the requirements for organic labeling. To learn more about the Non-GMO Project, visit

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