Food Label Fatigue

Remember several years ago when all processed foods at the grocery store started using a uniform labeling system to show us calories, fat grams and nutrients?  It was such a reassuring step toward helping us know exactly what we were eating.  Maybe even help us maintain a healthy weight.  Of course, there were all of the ingredients, too, all printed on the label.  But I got used to glancing at the easier-to-read Nutrition Facts printed in bold, and I usually didn't bother reading the ingredients.

Parenthood motivated me start reading all of that fine print on the labels, down to the last ingredient.  Especially those questionable additives and preservatives.  When some creamy foods seemed to make my child's skin red and itchy, I started finding a pattern in products that contained potassium sorbate or polysorbate 80.  On this weekend's trip to the grocery store, I replaced our family's usual "ice cream" product with a whopping 38 ingredients (including polysorbate 80) on the label, with an ice cream that seems to be the real thing.  It has 5 ingredients, and they're all things like cream, sugar and natural vanilla flavoring.  I decided to pay more for the yogurt without the potassium sorbate in it.  And I felt really frustrated when I started to pick up the wholesome looking whole wheat tortillas I usually buy and discovered that they, too, contain potassium sorbate.

So there are easy-to-read Nutrition Facts, there's the fine print of tedious ingredient lists, and then there's what we can't see on the label.  Was the food made with genetically modified or engineered ingredients?  One of the best explanations I've seen lately of why we should be concerned about this missing detail is at the Farm Aid website, so here's the link to check it out for yourself.

I realize that I don't sound like much of food purist if I was allowing my child to eat "junk" like ice cream anyway.  We do eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, eat as much organic food as we can afford, and cook from scratch whenever possible.  Our lifestyle is moderate, and occasional ice cream at home is one of those special treats that seems reasonable.  Now I'm wondering if I should start making my own whole wheat tortillas.  I find it frustrating for myself and other busy parents who still buy some processed foods that label-reading is so downright exhausting!

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