It’s been a couple of months since I cleared my pantry of foods with extra food additives. After a lengthy discussion of the effects of additives on children along with the possibility they may be triggers for ADHD symptoms, my husband and I agreed that we would focus on more natural foods. So, I donated some of our pre-packaged food and began replacing our staples with better food choices. Or so I thought.
I’ve been an avid food label reader for several years. And though I’ve known that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been a little lax in their treatment of food manufacturers when it comes to their labeling practices, I had no idea just how bad it had become.
In March, the FDA sent warning letters to 17 popular food manufacturers demanding they correct labels that mislead the public on their health benefits. Apparently, there has been a growing trend of food companies using ‘healthy’ terminology when their products are not meeting the standards.
Well-known products, many made for children, are targeted by the FDAs warnings. Dreyers Grand Ice Cream, Gorton’s, Nestle, and Beech-Nut top the list of offenders. Some more surprising food manufacturers to make the list are Sunsweet Growers, POM Wonderful, Pompeian and Nature’s Path.
Though the FDAs crack down of misleading labels is a big move, there is still a lot that needs to be done to correct the problems with society’s food sources. With so many chemicals in our foods, it’s surprising that more diseases, such as cancer, liver function, heart disease, etc. haven’t been linked directly to the food we eat. Childhood obesity, along with adult obesity, has become an epidemic in the U.S. and it’s not hard to connect that to the food products we consume.
The jury’s still out as to whether or not food additives can actually trigger ADHD behavior in children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “there is little evidence that ADHD is caused by food additives.” But a study done by the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency in 2007 has shown otherwise. Their study, performed by Southampton University, showed that there may be a correlation in consuming certain food dyes, along with the preservative sodium benzoate, and hyperactivity in children. They are now advising parents with hyperactive children (including those with ADHD) eliminate such food dyes from their diets.
The FDA still has not changed its position on food dyes or any other preservatives to date. In fact, this move to correct misleading labels on food is the first bold move made by the FDA against big food companies since 1990.
The FDA also sent out and open letter to the food manufacturing industry as a whole asking them to act responsibly against misleading and false labeling. The 17 companies who have received direct letters, however, will face legal proceedings and could possibly have their products removed from shelves.
The FDA is planning on creating an industry standard for “front of pack” labeling to help curtail the misleading messages on the front of packages. Food companies using these “front of pack” labeling practices, designed to entice the busy parent who may not take the time to read every label in the store, are some of the biggest culprits, using misleading and false health claims for their products on the front of the package.
So the next time you’re shopping for groceries, be wary of the Juicy Juice All-Natural Juice bottle or those Gerber Graduates Puffs. You may think you’re shopping smart, but according to the FDA, you’re not exactly getting what you think you’re getting.