The more I learn about food labeling in this country, the more I distrust them. Food labeling is not the nutrition label detailing the ingredients, calories, and serving size. Food labels are the little badges proclaiming the extra omega-3 or the vitamins added to the food product after processing.

Food labels - making a mountain out of an anthill

Food companies love telling you how their product will make you healthier. Almost every food company is represented by a trade association or PR department that promote their food product as healthy or "cool."

The trade association or PR department can take the results of a single nutrient research and make board claims that their food product contains the beneficial nutrient in their ads and lobby for the right to make the claim on their food label. Of course the other micro-nutrients in whole foods are ignored because their fortified food product is just as good (or at least that is what they want you to believe).

The first thing that comes to mind about misleading food labels is the confusion on soy. Soybeans contain isoflavones that help with menopausal symptoms. Food companies are able to extrapolate that since soybeans contain isoflavones, then isolating soy isoflavones in the pill form will produce the same result. The soy products eaten in Asian cultures are simply processed from grinding, precipitation, and fermentation where little of the soy ingredients are modified. Isolated soy isoflavones in the pill form or on a granola bar do not have the same health benefit as eating tofu or edamame.

Food companies love moderation

If a food product is not labeled as "bad" or "good" then it means there is no medical reason to restrict it from your diet. The advice to "eat everything in moderation" is a slogan that the food companies love to repeat. Moderation means different things to organizations and people. Moderation might mean ice cream every evening to you, but once a month to a dietitian.

Government agencies and watchdog groups do not have the money to compete with food companies promoting healthy claims on their food labels. They might be able to prevent food companies from putting outright lies on their food packaging, but they cannot afford ad campaigns educating the general public. The budget of most government agencies and watchdog groups only allow them to print a few pamphlets and set up a website. Food companies are rubbing their greedy hands together in anticipation of the profits from your food confusion.

Eat more vegetables is boring

What make more headlines --- discovering that a single nutrient such as omega-3 fatty acid can prevent heart disease or a life time of eating more vegetables? You know that eating more vegetables and exercising regularly is the key to good health. But it is much easier to take an omega-3 pill after a steak dinner to reduce inflammation in your body. Easier is not always better, but the food labels sure want to make you think so. The next time you are at the grocery store, be skeptical of food labels. Read the nutrition label and the ingredient list instead.