Marketing Deception That Drives Me Crazy (And It Should Bother You, too)

November 26, 2013   34 Comments

What is this product is in this photograph? Any guesses?

Food Marketing Deception

Let us start with the “No Preservatives” claim on the front. This is obviously a fresh food that will go bad quickly because there haven’t been any preservatives added. Perhaps, this is broccoli.

Now, we can read “no added nitrates or nitrites” and this gives us a hint that it is a form of cured meat. As we know, bacon and lunchmeat have been given a bad rap because of nitrates. Of course, it could still be broccoli.

How about “gluten-free”? Broccoli or meat right? I mean who adds wheat gluten to broccoli before you buy it. Cured meat wouldn’t have wheat added to it.

This is cured ham. The first issue here is that, in my humble opinion, it is a LIE that there are no preservatives. I’m not sure how they get away with this unless salt isn’t listed as a preservative by the FDA.

How does one cure ham? You add salt!! The whole point of ham – duh - ham is preserved pork (see Curing on Wikipedia). You can cure by smoking, but this ham was cured (it says so on the package). Salt is listed as the first ingredient behind pork.

The “no added nitrates or nitrites” is also a bit deceptive – you will note that there is a caveat attached on the package. The truth is these meats are cured with salt and a bacteria starter culture which turns the nitrates in the salt to nitrites. So, these are “naturally occurring” nitrites (but you added them when you mixed together salt and bacteria).

Finally, “gluten-free” – really? Does anyone out there think there is wheat gluten in ham? This claim is simply a way for them to claim that a high sodium, processed meat should be healthy for you. No gluten! Eat all you want.

Here are a few other statements that drive me bonkers:

  1. Chicken – raised without hormones - the FDA does not permit the use of hormones or steroids in poultry.
  2. No sugar added – but on the package there is “concentrated fruit juice”. What is that but a form of sugar?
  3. Whole grain - check the package to see if it is 100% whole grain or they just added a little whole grain to add this claim.

What food marketing claims bother you?

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 34 )

The no-added hormones claim always drives me crazy, they list it on beef here too. So stupid!

'All natural' annoys me, all kinds of weird crap is 'natural' - e.g. 'natural vanilla' or 'natural raspberry' flavouring... mmmmm who doesn't love some castoreum in their food (that's beaver anal sacs, yeah you read that right!).

Ahhhh this topic makes me really rant-y :D

This kind of false labeling has been driving me nuts for years. You can't believe food labels. We have to navigate through lies just to eat decent food. Eat as much fresh as possible!!

Thanks Snack Girl!!

People who need to be gluten free know perfectly well what has gluten in it. However, I can't tell you how often I have seen "newbies" to this gf world staying at the grocery store reading every single label. There could be a chance that gluten is added into meat in the form of a marinade or flavoring (soy sauce, for example). Additionally, when people host dinners or house guests who are gluten free, they SO want to be helpful and buy all sorts of things for their guests to eat. (Never mind that we are already aware of all the GF foods out there and

probably can make it better ourselves. So I don't mind if the companies want to label ham or broccoli or crackers as gluten free. Now the "no preservatives" thing is a whole 'nother ball game.

Thank you for cluing readers in on labeling. I am new to reading food content labels and need all the help I can get.

I am lifetime WW but realize that some products that are designed to lose pounds are not good for anyone! Please continue to raise awareness, I am not as savvy as some of your other readers and often fall for silly labels.

"Non-Dairy" drives me nuts. As the mother of a child with true milk-allergy (not intolerance, I mean dangerous allergy to casein, the protein in milk), it drives me nuts that a product can be considered "non dairy" when it still has casein, the very allergen in dairy that needs to be avoided! They even add casein to stuff it has no buiness being in, like canned tuna! Look at the ingredients of your "non-dairy" creamer. Uh... it has a "milk derivative" aka sodium caseinate. A product should NOT be allowed to be called non-dairy if it has ANY milk product in it!

I agree with Gretchen on the gluten free issue. It is amazing what seemingly "innocent" food items have gluten in them. Even old hands at the diet must do a quick check each time to make sure something new hasn't been added. Luncheon meats used to be a serious problem for Celiacs but most now seem fine for a gluten free diet. Now, the other stuff in those meats? Okay, all in moderation. But I for one appreciate the gluten free label as a quick check while I'm shopping.

Thanks Snack Girl! Can you please share with us the name of that bacteria from the label so we can watch for it? Thanks!

So true Snack Girl! These food labeling deceptions have really started to cramp my style. My husband and I find ourselves spending more and more time in the market aisles studying good labels trying to figure out what to buy. I start to feel a little anxious too because I can't understand what is taking so long to buy even a simple loaf of bread. There's a researcher at work who has devoted a good part of her career exposing the food marketing business. We need more people at her level doing it, that's for sure!

I am annoyed by ridiculous serving sizes. For example, a small bowl size container of microwaveable soup -- clearly designed to be taken to work for lunch -- and the nutrition label says 2 servings. Really.

But, Alison, can anything get more 'natural' than beaver anal sacs?

I absolutely hate the no sugar added/ all natural false advertising on packaging. It is especially bad for "no sugar added" items, which usually have splenda or some other kind of artificial sweeteners. People think they are being healthy by consuming this poison! Finding an all natural processed item without added sugar (of any form) is sooo frustrating too.

I'm with Diane. Aside from the "all natural" label that misleads so many trusting buyers, the "dairy-free" label on items that contain casein drives me bonkers. I have a hard enough time explaining to people (e.g. my well-meaning MIL) what is and is not ok to feed my daughter. Then she sees the "dairy-free" label on food and automatically assumes that it's safe! In reality, there's a good chance that it contains casein (milk protein), which is the real problem with dairy for my child.

Labels, lables, labels...... Between the ingredients and actual serving sizes you can get a quick headache. I don't even read the front of packages anymore. They are like putting candy right at the register, used just to lure you in, just to do you wrong in the end. I go straight to the label. I have also learned to stick to what I know when shopping so that I don't get messed up.

I had no idea about the curing process, thanks again for your helpful information! I was choosing these products based on the "no added nitrates".

"Fat Free" on sugary candy bugs me. In general, anything that is specifically called out to attract a certain audience, even though it would have never been there in the first place is your gluten free ham situation!

You should read "Salt, Sugar, Fat" by Michael Moss. It is a real eye opener!!

Hi Lisa ... I have to see if you know this one. Which yogurt is made with "talapia" (the fish). AND ,,, it states it right on the package? I just found this out weeks ago and I'm finally passed the nausea (not eating it of course anymore).

most beef does have hormones and anti-biotics so I do look for one raised without.

I hate the GF marketing to make junk seem healthy. I also hate the "naturally a fat free food" on fruit and veggies. drives me nuts

Janet, some yogurts that try to lure buyers in with "Omega 3 Enriched" use fish oil. I believe certain Yoplait yogurts, among others, use fish ingredients to "supplement" their yogurts. Why, I don't know - I have a vegitarian friend who was quite upset to find that the yogurt she purchased for her child had fish oil in it...

I have to agree with ALL of the above especially the serving size on soup! as if I'm going to only eat half of the can. Put the info for the ENTIRE CAN, not half. Same with soda. grrrr

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