Three Most Mislabeled Products in your Grocery Store

Today more than ever before we as American consumers are being pushed to purchase products chock-full of food marketer’s favorite and most attractive food labels. We constantly hear how our bodies need the safest foods and how these “safe foods” only come from the purest of sources, where human hands have carefully tended to and manicured the holiest of products in their uncontaminated presence. When in reality, the way to continue feeding a growing and eating population is to use the agricultural advancements of today.

For those with allergies and illnesses, food labels take on a vital role in the grocery store aisles, but labels can also play the part of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We as consumers begin to ask ourselves, “why do food products have labels in the first place, and do labels mean all the un-labeled food in the store is bad for me?” Read to find out what these labels mean and the three most mislabeled products at the grocery store.

Top 3 Mislabeled Everyday Products

1. Drinks. Water, milk, sports drinks, juices and many others fluids are often associated with a food label, but could probably be better left with a simpler packaging. Seeing water that is labeled as GMO Free makes us wonder if the H20 we have been drinking has been genetically modified in previous times.

As for our dairy drinks, the Federal Food & Drug Administration does not allow for milk with hormones to be sold into the market place, so all milk we purchase at the store is hormone free.

Finally, for the ice-cold juice we drink in the mornings. Juices that are marked as being “made with natural fruit juices,” may only contain small percentages of real juice.

The Non-GMO Claim: According to the Non-GMO Project, a GMO is a genetically modified organism. GMOs are organisms that have been altered through genetic engineering to produce a more hearty and weather resistant crop. Products labeled with the Non-GMO Project label indicates the product has been approved by a nonprofit organization offering a third-party non-GMO verification program.


In order for the product to be Non-GMO Project Verified, it must be evaluated for compliance within the organization’s standard, which categorizes factors into three levels of risk. Image provided by Pexels (2018).

2. Produce. The second most mislabeled product in the grocery store is produce. Fruits and vegetables don’t naturally contain gluten or hormones, so why are consumers fixated on finding the vegetable bag with the most amounts of labels? I’ve never known the local produce manager to inject our fresh fruits with preservatives. Most all fruits and vegetables in the produce section could be considered all natural because they involve minimal processing. Ditching the label would still imply an all natural product.

The All-Natural Claim: According to USDA standards, if a product wishes to promote a natural label, the product must not contain artificial flavors, coloring ingredients, chemical preservatives, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient and the product and its ingredients must be minimally processed.

Products marketed as All-Natural may include non-organic and GMO products. Image provided by Pexels (2018).

3. Meats. Like drinks and produce alike, meat doesn’t inherently contain traces of gluten and most meats at the butcher counter come in the most natural form possible so buying high price gluten-free ground beef or the 100% natural chicken is evidently useless.

The Gluten-Free Claim: According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, a product labeled gluten free means the product does not inherently contain gluten or does not contain an ingredient that as a whole is a gluten-containing grain. It does not contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and has not been processed to remove gluten but may contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten as long as the food product contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

And gluten-free products must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten in the food due to cross-contamination from packaging materials.

Gluten can’t be tested for at zero percent gluten so there may be a small amount (less than 20 parts per million) of gluten in a product even if it is labeled gluten-free. Image provided by Pexels (2018).

Additional Common Grocery Store Food Labels:

USDA Organic: According to the USDA, a processed or raw agricultural product containing the organic label must be certified organic, and non-organic ingredients allowed from the National List may be used, up to a combined total of 5 percent of the non-organic content. Products must state the name of the certifying agent and may include the USDA organic seal and/or an organic claim and the product label must identify organic ingredients. In other words, products that are labeled USDA organic can contain some non-organic factors.

100% Organic: According to the USDA, for a product to be USDA 100 percent organic, all ingredients must be certified organic, any processing aids or methods must be organic, and the product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel. These products may include the USDA organic seal and/or 100 percent organic claim and these products must identify all organic ingredients.

Traditional grocery stores are filled with the latest and greatest food technologies but current consumers are retreating to former days in hopes to cleanse their bodies of all impurities. The next time you’re buying drinks, meat and produce, I hope you’ll take a closer look at the packaging.