What's In A Product Label? Probably Lies.
Practically everything we use is labeled, from the food we eat to the laundry detergent we use. Labels we see all the time such as "diet" or "all-natural" probably don’t cause us to think twice, but their accuracy is actually quite debatable.
While every label can’t be explicated to the point of exhaustion, consumers have the right to at least have those labels that are included be accurate and useful.
We don’t need Nyquil to warn us that it may cause drowsiness or DuraFlame to tell us it’s flammable (although both do carry those warnings), but we do want some truthful clue as to what’s in the products we use every day.
Here’s to clearing up a few common labels that are all talk.
Not So Sweet: What does reduced sugar, no added sugar, or sugar-free even mean?
If you’re trying to keep your diet a bit healthier, you probably opt for a no sugar added fruit juice instead of the full sugar option, or sugar-free ice cream rather than the super duper candy-filled-blast ice cream.
One might assume that “no added sugar” means no sugar at all unless it’s naturally occurring sugar like that in fruit.
But if other products with full sugar are added, such as jam or preserves, there is no accounting for them in the “no sugar added” label since the little white crystals of sugar itself were never added.
Reduced sugar is even more of a misnomer since only ¼ of the sugar in an average product has to be reduced for the product to hold this title.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does monitor these labels, it’s quite obvious that cutting out only a quarter of the sugars from the original, ridiculously sweet beverages or candies on the market makes practically no difference.
As if you couldn’t guess what was coming next, no…sugar free isn’t sugar free for sure.
Perhaps the trace amounts of sugar left in a “sugar free” item aren’t so bad comparatively (the FDA allows for 0.5 grams of sugar per serving in a “sugar free” food), but hey…the label is flat out lying!
If there were ‘trace’ amounts of cocaine lying around at a crime scene, there would still be drugs at the scene according to police, right? Just saying.
Unscented, Not: How do nasty smelling chemicals become unscented anyways?
While unscented may seem great for people with allergies and other sensitivities, have you ever thought about how they got the natural smell of the chemicals in the product out?
While the detergent or deodorant in your hands may have “no” scent, there were likely many chemicals added so the already chemical-full product wouldn’t smell like it’s natural smell—a scent was added to cover the scent, you just can’t smell it.
People whose sensitive skin is irritated by chemicals in laundry soap, for example, might go to the “unscented” detergent immediately since it would seem to be less abrasive.
However the cause of their skin irritation is definitely not eliminated with the removal of “Very Fresh” or “Cool Breeze” perfume any more than it is removed with an “Unscented” option.
Probably Tested On Fluffy: What’s up with the “not tested on animals” label?
Go ahead and admit this to yourself now: the not tested on animals label is absolute crap almost 99 percent of the time.
When it comes to cosmetics, the FDA says, “Some cosmetic companies promote their products with claims such as "CRUELTY-FREE" or "NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS" in their labeling or advertising. The unrestricted use of these phrases by cosmetic companies is possible because there are no legal definitions for these terms.” Great.
Luckily, identifying which products are truly cruelty-free has become a bit easier thanks to organizations like Leaping Bunny, whose logo graces cosmetics that are verified and investigated to be sure no animals were harmed in production.
Unfortunately, many of the products and companies that claim on their labels that they do not test on animals have had some of the ingredients used to make their merchandise tested on animals.
While we can hope that companies would be honest about their practices, it’s likely that the shampoo that was “never, ever tested on animals” was tested in many stages on all sorts of critters before it became that final, sellable product—it’s just that the end result wasn’t ever shampooed onto Flopsy rabbit. Go figure.
When Green Was Merely A Color: What makes anything "green"?
“All-natural,” to start, insinuates that nothing chemical-ridden or toxic is in the product since it came form the earth. Do we need some reminding that many naturally occurring substances are toxic?
Still, this label isn’t too wrongly asserted since most naturally occurring toxins, like lead or asbestos, aren’t going to be included in the product anyways out of sheer common sense.
With everything from window cleaner to toilet scrub being labeled green, “greenwashing” is a common phenomenon these days. TerraChoice, an environmental marketing firm, found that 95 percent of products that said they were “green” in some way flubbed their assertion somehow.
Some paper companies (that includes printer paper and toilet paper) say their products are fully recyclable (when that’s never been tested) or sustainable (simply because they’ve been cut in a sustainable forest), according to TerraChoice. That’s hardly “green”.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration noticed “greenwashing” and reacted, weakly, this January by creating the USDA Certified Biobased Product label. It assures that a whopping 25 percent of the product is “green.” Look for that ultra informative label in stores soon.
The Things You Consume That Aren’t Labeled: Gross. Seriously.
Two words: Taco Bell. Would you like some beef in your beef taco, or no?
Reach reporter Molly-Marie Canales here.