11 Secrets the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know
We've uncovered the truth about the products that line your supermarket's shelves.
And what we found might just surprise you.
If you want some insight into the food industry, take a stroll through your grocery store's candy aisle. There, on the labels of such products as Mike and Ike and Good & Plenty, you'll find what perhaps is a surprising claim: "Fat free." However, it's completely true—these empty-calorie junk foods are almost 100 percent sugar and processed carbs.
You see, food manufacturers think you're stupid. In fact, their marketing strategies rely on it. For instance, it may be that the aforementioned candy makers are hoping you'll equate "fat free" with "healthy" or "nonfattening"—so that you forget about all the sugar these products contain. It's a classic bait and switch.
And the candy aisle is just the start. That's why we've scoured the supermarket to find the secrets that food industry insiders don't want you to know. The very ones that deep-pocketed manufacturers use to prey on your expectations, your wallet, and most important, your health. Call it the Eat This, Not That! crib sheet for helping you to beat Big Food at its own game—and eat healthier for life.
Keebler Doesn't Want You to Know . . . that Numbers Can Be Deceiving.
On the front of a box of Reduced Fat Club Crackers—in large yellow letters—you'll find the claim, "33% Less Fat Than Original Club Crackers." Their math is accurate: The original product contains 3 grams of fat per serving (per 4 crackers), while the reduced-fat version has 2 grams (per 5 crackers). So statistically, it's a 33 percent difference, but is it meaningful? And why doesn't Keebler tout that their reduced-fat crackers have 33 percent more carbs than the original?
Maybe they simply don't want you to know that when they took out 1 gram of fat, they replaced it with 3 grams of refined flour and sugar.
Beverage Makers Don't Want You to Know . . . that Some Bottled Green Tea May Not Be as Healthy as You Think.
We commissioned ChromaDex laboratories to analyze 14 different bottled green teas for their levels of disease-fighting catechins. While Honest Tea Green Tea with Honey topped the charts with an impressive 215 milligrams of total catechins, some products weren't even in the game. For instance, Republic of Tea Pomegranate Green Tea had only 8 milligrams, and Ito En Teas' Tea Lemongrass Green had just 28 milligrams, despite implying on its label that the product is packed with antioxidants.
Food Companies Don't Want You to Know . . . that Your Food Can Legally Contain Maggots.
Sure, the FDA limits the amount of rodent droppings and other appetite killers in your food, but unfortunately that limit isn't zero. The regulations below aren't harmful to your health—but we can't promise that the thought of them won't make you sick.
Kellogg's Doesn't Want You to Know . . . the Truth about Cornflakes.
Case in point: They've placed a "Diabetes Friendly" logo on the box's side panel. Never mind that Australian researchers have shown that cornflakes raise blood glucose faster and to a greater extent than straight table sugar. (High blood glucose is the primary symptom of diabetes.) The cereal maker does provide a link to its Web site, where nutrition recommendations are provided for people with diabetes.
Quaker Doesn't Want You to Know . . . that a Bowl of Some of Their "Heart-Healthy" Hot Cereals Have More Sugar than the Same Serving Size of Froot Loops.
One example: Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal. Sure, the company proudly displays the American Heart Association (AHA) check mark on the product's box.
However, the fine print next to the logo simply reads that the food meets AHA's "food criteria for saturated fat and cholesterol." So it could have a pound of sugar and still qualify. But guess what? Froot Loops meets the AHA's criteria, too, only no logo is displayed.
The Food Industry Doesn't Want You to Know . . . that Companies Must Pay to Be an American Heart Association-Certified Food.
That's why the AHA logo might appear on some products but is absent from others—even when both meet the guidelines.
The Food Industry Also Doesn't Want You to Know . . . that Food Additives May Make Your Kids Misbehave.
Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK found that artificial food coloring and sodium benzoate preservatives are directly linked to increased hyperactivity in children. The additives included Yellow #5, Yellow #6, Red #40, and sodium benzoate, which are commonly found in packaged foods in the United States, but the researchers don't know if it's a combination of the chemicals or if there's a single one that's the primary culprit. You can find Red #40, Yellow #5, and Yellow #6 in Lucky Charms and sodium benzoate in some diet sodas, pickles, and jellies.
Land O'Lakes Doesn't Want You to Know . . . that There's No Such Thing as "Fat-Free" Half-and-Half.
By definition, a half-and-half dairy product is 50 percent milk and 50 percent cream. Cream, of course, is pretty much all fat. So, technically, Fat Free Half & Half can't exist. What exactly is it? Skim milk—to which a thickening agent and an artificial cream flavor have been added. You may be disappointed in the payoff: 1 tablespoon of traditional half-and-half contains just 20 calories; the fat-free version has 10.
The Meat Industry Doesn't Want You to Know . . . that the Leanest Cuts May Have the Highest Sodium Levels.
Leaner cuts by definition are less juicy. To counteract this dried-out effect, some manufacturers "enhance" turkey, chicken, and beef products by pumping them full of a liquid solution that contains water, salt, and other nutrients that help preserve it. This practice can dramatically boost the meat's sodium level. For example, a 4-ounce serving of Shady Brook Farms Fresh Boneless Turkey Breast Tenderloin that's enhanced by a 6 percent solution contains 55 mg sodium. But the same-size serving of Jennie-O Turkey Breast Tenderloin Roast Turkey, which is enhanced by up to 30 percent, packs 840 mg—more than one-third of your recommended daily value.
Supermarkets Don't Want You to Know . . . that Long Lines Will Make You Buy More.
If you're stuck in a long checkout line, you'll be up to 25 percent more likely to buy the candy and sodas around you, according to a recent study at the University of Arizona. Psychologists have found that the more exposure someone has to temptation, the more likely it is that he'll succumb to it. This may also help explain why supermarkets lay out their stores so that the common staples—such as milk, bread, and eggs—are at the very back, forcing you to run the gauntlet of culinary temptation.
Food Companies Also Don't Want You to Know . . . that Their Calorie Counts May Be Wrong.
That's because in order to make sure you're getting at least as much as you pay for, the FDA is more likely to penalize a food manufacturer for overstating the net weight of a product than understating it. As a result, manufacturers often either "generously" package more food than the stated net weight or make servings heavier than the stated serving size weight. With an ordinary food scale, we put a range of products to the test by checking the actual net weight and serving size weight. Sure enough, we found that a number of popular products are heavier than the package says. And that means you may be eating more calories than you think.