The holidays are a busy time for marketing with holiday gift guides, sales, and more. But did you know that the food products you’re purchasing are heavily marketed too? Unfortunately, some of this marketing is misleading and can cause mistrust in the food industry. We’ve broken down some common misleading marketing phrases that you might find in your holiday meals so you can rest easy in the food you’re eating.
When you’re buying your Thanksgiving turkey this year, you might see the phrase “raised without the use of hormones” or “no hormones added” on the packaging. However, these phrases are unnecessary as hormones are not allowed in raising poultry, per federal regulations. These misleading phrases legally must be followed by “Federal regulations do not permit the use of hormones in poultry.”
Antibiotics are also a topic of conversation when it comes to turkey, or really any kind of meat. The truth is antibiotics may be used to treat or prevent disease and increase feed efficiency. When antibiotics are given, government regulations require a withdrawal period to make sure birds are without any residues prior to slaughter. This means you will never consume antibiotics via meat.
While we’re on the topic of meat, let’s address hormones in beef. Hormones (estrogen) are used to increase efficiency and growth in beef cattle without hurting the animal. The amount of estrogen that is actually injected into the animal is actually very insignificant in human consumption.
For example, Dr. Ann Macrina, who teaches Animal Science at Penn State, says, “a 3-ounce serving of beef from a steer that had a hormone implant contains 1.2 ng of estrogen while that from a steer with no implant contains 0.9 ng.” In comparison, adult women produce 630,000 ng of estrogen per day. So really, you would have to consume extreme amounts of beef to see a difference in your body.
A phrase in the food industry that is surrounded by a lot of misinformation is “non-GMO” or non-genetically modified organisms. To begin to understand what GMOs are and how they’re labeled, you have to know first that there are only a few GMO crops in the US. This means a lot of foods marked “non-GMO” couldn’t even be GMOs in the first place.
Secondly, GMOs aren’t harmful and are actually good for the environment. A GMO is a plant, animal, or microorganism that’s had its genetic material (DNA) changed with technology. This process is scientifically referred to as genetic engineering and is when a beneficial gene, like insect resistance or drought tolerance, is transferred to a plant. As a result, farmers produce more food, have less crop loss, longer storage life, and reduce pesticide use.
GMO foods are just as healthy and safe to eat as non-GMO foods. In fact, some GMO foods are modified to improve their nutritional value. Rest assured, that the USDA, FDA, and EPA all test new GMOs extensively to ensure their safety.
Peanut Butter Cookies
One label you might find on your peanut butter jar is “all-natural” or “100% natural.” This label may lead you to believe that the product is healthy or minimally processed. In actuality, the term “natural” has very loose FDA guidelines. Rather, the FDA says it “has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”
This means foods containing natural flavors, sweeteners, or other plant-derived substances are able to be labeled natural. With the definition of “natural” being so vague, it may not be worth the premium price products boasting this term may have.
We hope these fact-checks help you feel confident when you’re making your grocery list for holiday meals this year! Whatever food you choose at the grocery store, know that hard-working farmers and scientists have done the research to make sure it’s safe for you and your family to enjoy.