“There is nothing to eat in this house!” I’m sure you have heard these words and know it’s time to head to the store. Our days when our farm is open for business, my time for shopping is limited. The most I look at a food label is to make sure I’m getting the right thing. Obviously, yesterday after planting our 20K strawberries my brain was fried and when I got home, I realized I had reached for Bryer’s Black Raspberry Chocolate ice cream and had gotten Cherry Vanilla instead! After much examination and sarcastic delight I discovered I had purchased ice cream that was gluten-free and was produced with milk from cows with no artificial growth hormones (even though the FDA states there is no significant difference in milk), rainforest alliance certified vanilla and country-harvested cherries from a sustainable farm. Holy cow that’s a lot of claims in addition to the normal label and food facts. It is no wonder the food label is confusing to the consumer.
For the most part we don’t think much about the labels on our food. Believe it or not the food label is highly mandated by the FDA. All food labels must include:
- Product name, name and address of manufacturer; size.
- Ingredients by descending order of weight or predominance.
- Nutrition facts that include per serving values for calories, total fat, saturated fat, Trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbs, dietary fiber, sugars and proteins. If a claim is made about a specific vitamin or nutrient that also must be included.
- Percentage of Daily Values based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Mandated are also % daily values of Vitamin A, C, Calcium and Iron.
- Nutrient Claims such as high, good, more, light, -free, low, very low, reduced, no or healthy can be made when manufacturers meet strict criteria set by FDA. Most consumers don’t know that criteria. Check this out for a great chart on all the definitions.http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/pdf/hgic4061.pdf or http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064911.htm.
- Health Claims can be made if there is a relationship between a food or nutrient and a reduced risk of a disease or health related condition. Again these are highly regulated by the FDA. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064919.htm.
- Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) of any imports is required not by the FDA but by U.S. Customs since 1930. If a product is then later processed in yet another country then it must also be included. I have become familiar with this, as I have been trying to buy more fish. It is extremely difficult to find fish from this country. I haven’t noticed this on red meat because we eat meat locally.
As a dietitian, I can see that the food label continues to be very confusing to the general consumer. Products are allowed to be labeled “Gluten-free” even if they never contained gluten to begin with. People are avoiding gluten who don’t need to be and are missing essential nutrients. “No hormone fed” labeled chicken is thought to be better for families than the chicken without the label, even though chickens are not given hormones to begin with. Mayhem is just around the corner with the GMO labeling issues coming into heated debate. “Non-GMO verified” labels have begun making debuts on the shelves, again labeling foods that are not even GMO to begin with and adding fuel to the fire of the GMO scare. All these labels are meant to give consumers a choice but in my opinion, add to the confusion. Not only does the general consumer not know what they mean, don’t take time to learn what they mean, they just “know” they are bad for them. Terms such as GMO, rBST (to name a few) are unfamiliar and therefore scary. For consumers needing to stretch their food dollar, labeling issues may mean increased prices at the marketplace.
A couple of my friends were very concerned and recently sent me an e-mail circulating regarding China and our nation’s food supply. First, it stated that live hogs are being shipped to China for processing and being shipped back. Birdseye veggies were being grown and processed in China and other similar companies are doing the same. My husband, Paul with his experience in exporting live cattle, explained to me that the pork export statements would never happen due to:
1. The cost, time and effort to export live animals. Just the cost to ship them back to the U.S. would be prohibitive and
2. Processing plants are readily available in the U.S.
Birdseye has a map on their website showing where their veggies are coming from. For the consumer with little agriculture, food knowledge and no time to search for the truth, these types of e-mails are super scary — just another reason why our real agriculture conversations are important. You may not feel comfortable being an “agvocate” with the media or in front of a crowd, but know that a simple, genuine conversation the next time you reach for ice cream is just as important as well as a one-on-one conversation with your congressman regarding the food label. We live in a country producing the safest food supply in the world. Be proud of it and share it with others.
Enjoy these recipes I found on the labels amongst my pantry shelves.
Decadent Truffle Bottom Chocolate Cream Pie Hershey Special Dark Chocolate Chips
1 (1/2 of 15-oz. pkg.) refrigerated pie crust
2 cups miniature marshmallows or 20 large marshmallows
1/2 cup milk
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Chips
1 cup (1/2 pt.) heavy whipping cream
Sweetened whipped cream or whipped topping (optional)
Chocolate curls (optional)
Prepare and bake pie crust in 9-inch pie plate as directed on package for unfilled 1-crust pie.
Place marshmallows and milk in large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50%) 1 minute; stir. If necessary, microwave at MEDIUM an additional 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Add chocolate chips; stir until melted and mixture is smooth. If necessary, microwave at MEDIUM an additional 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, just until chips are melted when stirred. Spread 1 cup chocolate mixture over bottom of crust; refrigerate. Cool remaining mixture to room temperature.
Beat whipping cream until stiff; gradually blend into chocolate mixture, combining thoroughly. Spread over chocolate layer in pastry crust. Cover; refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or until well chilled. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate curls, if desired. Cover; refrigerate leftover pie. Makes 8 servings.
Chicken Barley Chili Quaker® Quick Pearled Barley
1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans tomatoes, diced, undrained (you can use seasoned tomatoes)
1 (16 ounce) jars of your favorite salsa
1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans fat free chicken broth, reduced sodium
1 cup quick-cooking barley
3 cups water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 1/4 ounce) cans corn or 1 (15 1/4 ounce) cans corn mixed with chopped peppers, undrained
1 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, cooked and diced (3 cups)
Cheddar cheese (optional)
Reduced-fat sour cream (optional)
In a large saucepan, combine first 7 ingredients (tomatoes through cumin).
Over high heat bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans, corn and chicken; increase heat to high until chili comes to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for another 5 minutes, or until barley is tender. If upon standing the chili becomes too thick, add more chicken broth or water until chili is desired consistency.
If desired, top each bowl of chili with a little shredded cheddar and a dollop of sour cream. Makes 11 cups Nutrition per 1 cup serving; 270 cal; 4 g fat; 60 mg chol; 700 mg Sodium; 27 g Carb; 5 g Fiber; 32g Protein
Ultimate Chicken Quesadillas Rotel Mexican Lime & Cilantro
PAM Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 can (10 oz each) Ro*Tel Mexican Diced Tomatoes with Lime Juice & Cilantro, undrained 4 flour tortillas (10 inch)
2 cups shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese blend (2 cups = 8 oz)
Spray large skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Add chicken and undrained tomatoes; cook 10 minutes or until chicken pieces are no longer pink in centers and liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently. Spread chicken mixture evenly onto bottom half of each tortilla to within 1 inch of edge. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over chicken mixture on each tortilla. Fold each tortilla in half to cover filling. Clean skillet. Spray with additional cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Cook quesadillas 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown on both sides. Cut into wedges to serve.
Canadian bacon Quiche Kraft Shredded Swiss Cheese
1/2 pkg. (15 oz.) ready-to-use refrigerated pie crusts (1 crust)
1 ½ c KRAFT® shredded Swiss cheese divided
3 oz. Canadian bacon, chopped
¾ c milk
2 green onion
1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare pie crust as directed on pkg. for unfilled 1-crust pie, using 9-inch pie plate sprayed with cooking spray. Arrange Swiss cheese pieces evenly on bottom of pie crust; top with the Canadian bacon.
Beat eggs and milk with wire whisk until well blended; pour into crust. Sprinkle with onions and shredded cheese; top with tomato slices.
Bake 15 min. Reduce heat to 350°F; continue baking 25 to 30 min. or until center is set and top is lightly browned. Let stand 10 min. before cutting into 6 wedges to serve.