Illinois Farmer Q&A: What food labels do you think are the most misleading?

March 16, 2017

Illinois Farmer Q&A: What food labels do you think are the most misleading?

You have questions about farm practices and food labels, and Illinois farmers have those answers. We asked local farmers your questions about various labels so you can get your answers straight from the source. Let's talk about what's on your table.

What food labels do you think are the most misleading? Why?

"Labels that imply there is a better, safer choice when it is purely a marketing strategy: Non-GMO blueberries, for example – GM blueberries don't exist. Antibiotic- free hamburger? Antibiotics are not allowed into the food supply at all."

-Megan Dwyer, Coal Valley, IL

"Natural – because there is no government definition of natural. At first glance, it seems simple – something that is fresh and doesn’t have any additives. Or is it something that has not been processed? But does this imply no pesticides to some people? But an apple that was not washed prior to shipping to make sure e.coli wasn’t introduced during the picking process or beef that wasn’t given any antibiotics when it was ill – are these what we really want in our bodies? Could wheat flour could be natural? – pounded on a rock outside in the sun with a stone? or hulled and ground in an enclosed facility. The more you know. The more you question. And the more offensive it becomes when the word is used as a branding device to play on people’s good intentions rather than what might be the healthiest outcome."

-Heather Hampton Knodle, Fillmore, IL

"I think most people misunderstand a lot of labeling, but especially the meanings of 'organic,' 'natural' and 'GMO'."

-Lynda Gould, Ashton, IL

"The most misleading labels are those that identify a product in some way that implies a differentiation from other products that is not true. For example, a “Non-GMO” label on a tomato leads a shopper to believe tomatoes without that label must be GMO, but there are no commercially available GMO tomatoes in the U.S. Another example is “Hormone Free.” All plant and animal products have naturally occurring hormones, so those products cannot be hormone free."

-Krista Swanson, Oneida, IL

"The GMO-Free or Non-GMO Project Verified labels I find most irritating as a farmer. One could argue they are not misleading because that box of popcorn is GMO-Free, but so is the box that isn't labeled. No genetically modified popcorn hybrid exists. I find these labels misleading because there is a presumption on the consumer's part (I know, because I am a consumer and I find myself making presumptions too) that there must be a genetically modified strawberry if one package is labeled as such and the other packages are not."

-Katie Pratt, Dixon, IL

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