When it comes to food labels, manufacturers are very good at finding the loopholes in labeling laws and requirements, and subsequently very good at pulling the wool over YOUR eyes. One such loophole is the manufacturer's ability to claim "zero" grams of fat, zero grams of trans fat, or zero calories on the label when in fact the product does indeed contain plenty of fat, trans fat, and/or calories.
Here's the law, and how food manufacturers get around it:
Zero grams of fat or zero grams of trans fat: As long as the food item has less than .5g of fat or trans fat, respectively, the label does not need to claim their existence on the label. In fact, the product can even legally market "Zero grams of fat!" or "0g of trans fat per serving!"
More on why this is a HUGE problem, and how food manufacturers deepen this loophole in just a minute.
Zero calories per serving: As long as the food item has less than 5 calories per serving, it can be rounded down and labeled 0 calories.
Deepening the Loophole with Unrealistic Serving Sizes
While .5g of fat or 5 calories may not seem like a big deal, remember that these values are "per serving," and while an entire package, box, can, or bottle of a product may contain hundreds of calories and loads of fat, as long as they can divide that package into small enough servings to meet the calorie and gram requirements to claim zero, it's legal.
Legal AND deceptive as hell.
I don't know about you, but I get angry when I see food manufacturers outright LYING to consumers on their labels and in the nutrition facts. Some of these products should change the Nutrition Facts header to "Nutrition Lies" and it'd actually be a lot more accurate.
You see, at BioTrust we're here to provide you with honest nutrition advice and products, and as such, here are my "Top 3 Violators" of this deceptive food labeling practice.
1. Cooking Sprays and Butter Sprays - Cooking sprays are labeled as fat-free but their first ingredient is oil, which is 100% fat. How in the world can this be? Well, the serving size is 1/5th of a second. What? Last time I used a cooking spray (some of the organic ones are useful) it took about 3 seconds to lightly coat the surface of the pan. Well, according to the manufacturer, I just used 15 servings.
Bottom line, no one uses the ridiculous and absurd microscopic 1/5th of a second spray suggested serving, which isn't nearly enough product to be of practical use.
Cooking sprays aren't fat-free... they are nearly 100% fat. In my example above, a realistic serving actually contains around 5 grams of fat and 45 calories. A far cry from the 0 number reported on their nutrition facts.
Same goes for butter sprays, which are 90%+ fat in most cases. For example, one popular brand of butter spray contains over 800 calories and 90g of fat per bottle, yet it's labeled as a fat-free, calorie-free product! Yeah, right!
The serving size? One spray. Let's get real here... no one is using one spray, or five sprays, or 10 sprays. In fact, twenty-five sprays equals just one teaspoon, when the servings size for regular butter is 1 tablespoon. When you balance out the serving size to be the same as a serving of butter, you're looking at 75 sprays to get the same amount.
2. Artificial sweeteners - Not only are artificial sweeteners bad news for your health, but they're also a top violator of "calorie free" deceptive labeling practices. Many brands of artificial sweeteners use maltodextrin and/or dextrose (which is pure sugar) as fillers in each packet, and each packet can legally contain up to a full gram of sugar and 5 calories and still be labeled as calorie free.
I've seen people put 3 - 5 packets of this stuff in their coffee or on their cereal... hardly calorie free and even worse, maltodextrin and dextrose are two of the biggest insulin-spiking carbs around—the entire reason people choose artificial sweeteners over sugar in the first place!
3. Any food that contains "partially hydrogenated" oils in the ingredient list, period. Bottom line, you should have a zero-tolerance attitude toward trans fats. They are the most health-derailing nutrient known to man, and you should be truly consuming ZERO grams per day.
If a product claims "Zero grams of trans fat per serving," especially if they specify "per serving," they are almost always playing the serving size game, and you're very likely to see partially hydrogenated oils on the list of ingredients when you flip the package over. If so, avoid it like the plague.
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Have an awesome day!