Growing up, hide-and-seek was one of my favorite games. I loved playing both roles and easily embraced the emotions that the game evoked from the two opposite objectives. As a child, I had no idea I would be playing this game for the rest of my life. Now, my position is primarily as the seeker. Ready or not, here I come! My job depends on seeking the latest research and hidden truths behind the smoke and mirrors, strategically placed to keep the majority of us content and complacent with our health. Of course, the government also does its best to protect us and make sure we have access to the truth in the form of the FDA. This agency was designed to protect us from food and drug companies who may be more concerned with their bottom line than they are with our bottoms. This is when that childhood game of hide-and-seek comes back into play. The food and drug industries are two of the largest in the world and like any other industry or business, profit is king. This game of hide-and-seek relies on the food industry finding ways to hide ingredients right under our noses. There is a science behind how the industry manipulates labeling to not only fit within the FDA’s guidelines but to ensure any potentially harmful, addictive or unhealthy ingredients remain safely hidden.
In 2006, The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act was passed into law, which ignited this game of cat and mouse. In summary, the act was passed to definitively label eight of the most common food allergens so there would be no misunderstanding of whether or not that specific ingredient was in a product. Eggs, peanuts, milk and shellfish were four of the eight ingredients listed. While the intentions of this act were well-meaning, it completely missed the mark. It posed no real threat to food manufacturers and they continued with business as usual, hiding ingredients that pose legitimate health risks in products while shielding only those with allergies to the eight allergens listed. The silver lining came in the form of publicity when the act was passed. Even though the act failed to push food companies to search for healthier ingredients, it did shed light on the dirty little secrets these companies use to manipulate labeling to either disguise ingredients or downplay how unhealthy some of these products actually are.
One of the most important things you can do to protect your health is familiarize yourself with food labeling and all the ways it can be manipulated. One common trick used is hiding ingredients under different names than the familiar names we know to look for. There are a number of ingredients that have been pegged as detrimental to our health over the years, yet they still remain in an assortment of our favorite products. Now, these ingredients simply appear under different pseudonyms that don’t raise red flags. Have you ever asked yourself what exactly is natural juice from concentrate? Especially when that natural juice only makes up two percent of the entire product.