Truth about Marketing and Packaging of Foods

Yogurt stimulates digestion, cereal increases concentration, milk reduces osteoporosis and so on are the repetitively claims and the supply of processed foods that we are offered have miraculous benefits. Is it really true? According to the manufacturers, they are wonderful, but according to the regulatory authorities and nutritionists, the benefits are not so clear.

In a full report for the New York Times, reporter Natasha Singer tracked a series of investigations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the veracity of certain virtues promoted in processed food packaging. As a result in many cases, the labels offered benefits that were not supported by scientific research. And if there were studies, their findings did not conform exactly to the messages that appeared on the packaging.

In the food industry, there is a category called “functional foods” which brings together those who promote or maintain the health of those who consume well. There are medicines which do not cure diseases, but are considered to have long-term benefits if consumed regularly. These functional foods are big business; in 2009, Americans spent in this category more than $37 billion hoping to be buying a healthier life.

The problem is that many of these processed foods need to be consumed in large quantities to really take effect, and by increasing the amount, it also increases the intake of other ingredients which is not so good. It is found that oatmeal helps reduce cholesterol levels and thanks to its soluble fiber content. The cereal box ‘Quacker Oatmel Square’ offers this benefit, but the detail is that each serving has only 30% of the recommended minimum. That means that it takes three meals a day, which would add 630 calories (without milk) to benefit which makes too many calories in a bowl, but little soluble fiber.

The marketing of food products with health benefits takes years and has become popular in Latin America. The report in the New York Times exposes the case of Svelty brand, produced and marketed by Nestlé in Mexico, offering digestive health to the consumers. The science behind this offer is a matter that only the experts and regulators have the ability to validate.

This has to do with the legal framework and the power of the food industry. In the US, the manufacturers market their products according to their own research and correspond to certify the regulators. In case there is misinformation, it requires manufacturers to make changes. In Europe, the system is different. Before marketing the health benefits of a product, the manufacturers must submit studies to the Food Safety Authority, and it is up to them to determine if the food actually produces these benefits.

Knowing eating right is the key to a better life and nutritionists recommend the consumption of certain foods to improve some discomfort or problems. But the question to ask when choosing these products in the supermarket, how the consumers will certify it will be healthier or not.

Natural Vs Processed

All this debate occurs around processed foods. For fresh foods, the debate is different, because although there are many studies on the benefits of garlic, onions, oranges and spinach, it is not common to find a bag of oranges that says ‘loaded vitamin C to prevent the flu’. That is rather a theory of our grandmothers. Here it is not a matter of marketing, but real and verifiable effects.

There is consensus that food can be authentic medicine, but not supplant drugs and other medical therapies. We also know that when consumed fresh, its beneficent power is much greater. That is why if the intention is to have better health and quality of life, it is best eaten with the least amount of processing, rather than opting for the convenience of the product packed and ready to go. But let’s face it; it is more convenient to buy them, open the package and eat them. Actually our responsibility is to read the labels and ponder what ingredients are included and how much amount we need to consume.

Of course, it is not suggested that you turn your back on these functional foods; in fact, the focus is on balance, not to create you another reason to stress.

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