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There are Lies, Damned Lies and Food Packaging Labels

You probably know the old saw: there are lies, damned lies and, there are statistics. It’s almost become a joke. But the way modern “science” has evolved, spinning and manipulating numbers for self-gain, is not funny. Not in the least.

I’ve been pointing out for years that much so-called science in medicine and pharmaceuticals is really just clever marketing—all in collusion with the FDA, of course, which has the power to stop the lies but just won’t act against their pals in the industry.

Curiously, what started this week’s rant is that the FDA is proposing to impose closer controls on what foods can be sold as “healthy” and what cannot. Or more exactly what can be SAID about food values on the packaging and labels.

Personally, I’m not going to hold my breath. For decades we’ve been watching a vomit-tide of serious outright lies on television and other media: “Heart-healthy” is a good one—a breakfast cereal imbued with a lot of sugar is “heart healthy”? I don’t think so.

It needn’t be so blatant. Cherry 7-Up is a sugary ghastly drink but the manufacturers have tried to distract buyers from the obvious negatives by saying it contains antioxidants. True (sorta) but it is basically high-fructose corn syrup and artificially flavored, red-dyed water in a can. It has NO nutritional merits. It is deadly for health.

The gullible public can be misled by claims of this sort. “Caffeine-free” is another one. It implies some healthy value that may not be present in the product.

This was pointed up by a special study some years back called “Truth, Lies, and Packaging: How Food Marketing Creates a False Sense of Health,” headed up by professor Temple Northup at the University of Houston.1

“Saying Cherry 7-Up contains antioxidants is misleading. Food marketers are exploiting consumer desires to be healthy by marketing products as nutritious when, in fact, they’re not,” said Northup, principal investigator of the study,

The study examined the degree to which consumers link marketing terms on food packaging with good health. It found that consumers tend to view food products labeled with health-related euphemisms as healthier than those without them. The research also showed that the nutrition facts panels printed on food packaging as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have little effect compared to buzzwords on the front of the package.

Priming Psychology

As you would expect, there is an evil underbelly in American marketing, where psychology is used as a manipulative tool to get people to do what you want—WITHOUT realizing they are being manipulated.

In this case it’s called “priming”. Northup’s study looked at this aspect of marketing too. By throwing in certain favorable words, the consumer is fooled into assigning nutritional value to a substance which has none.

“For example, if I gave you the word ‘doctor,’ not only ‘doctor’ would be accessible in your mind—now all these other things would be accessible in your mind—’nurse,’ ‘stethoscope,’ etc.,” Northup said. “What happens when these words become accessible, they tend to influence or bias your frame of mind and how you evaluate something.”

This triggered concept is then available to influence later thoughts and behaviors, often without explicit awareness of this influence—the so-called priming effect, Northup said.

Well, the FDA, which I have trouble viewing as a beneficent organization, has said it now wants to tighten up on all this lying hogwash, it an attempt to improve the nation’s health (as if!)

Up until now it has been the role of campaigning groups and individuals to try to bring order into this Wild West of food safety.

As a result of a suit filed in 2016, Kellogg Co. had to agree to pay approximately $30 million (chicken feed) to settle a class action lawsuit alleging it misled consumers by using health and nutrition claims to market high-sugar cereal and breakfast bars.

The suit centered around claims used to advertise Raisin Bran, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Smart Start, Crunchy Nut and Krave cereal brands as well as Nutri-Grain snack bars. In addition to paying millions of dollars to consumers, the settlement requires Kellogg to stop using phrases such as “healthy,” “wholesome” and “nutritious” on the products for at least three years. Kellogg also agreed to remove or limit “heart health” claims on Smart Start and Raisin Bran cereals, remove the phrase “lightly sweetened” from Frosted Mini-Wheats and Smart Start and refrain from using “no high-fructose corn syrup” to market Nutri-Grain products.2

It’s just a lottery, not law. The Kellog settlement came just months after another judge in the same district dismissed a similar lawsuit against General Mills. In that case, plaintiffs had also alleged that products were not as healthy as represented.

In 2021 the action against Kellog was settled at just $20 million. There were $3.9 million in attorney’s fees.3

 Kellog Honey Smacks were 30% sugar by weight PLUS hydrogenated oils (Uggh!)

FDA Steps In

At the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, September last, the FDA started an initiative which no doubt will be quickly and comprehensively ravaged by the self-serving food industry, but which has the lofty aim of redefining which food products could use a “healthy” label on their packaging would help consumers select more healthful foods, and thereby improve people’s overall diet quality, and reduce all-cause morbidity.

But it’s only going to be VOLUNTARY! It’s not going to work… at all!

The proposal includes new limits on added sugars and stronger limits on sodium, while maintaining the existing limits on saturated fats, if a manufacturer wants to make a “healthy” claim. All three of these nutrients are consumed in excess by the vast majority of individuals in the Western world.

It will also mean that “healthy” foods must have minimum levels of ingredients from food groups that make up the core of a healthy eating pattern, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and proteins. And it removes the limit on total fats, in alignment with the latest nutrition science.

By FDA’s own estimates, only 14% of foods qualify for the existing “healthy” claim, and even fewer (5%) currently choose to make the claim. As with any voluntary label, companies will use it if they believe it will enhance their products’ appeal; otherwise, they will forgo it, leaving consumers to guess whether the product is actually less healthy or if the manufacturer just opted not to use the claim.

That’s why mandatory labelling is so crucial; there’s just one standard to meet and it’s a YES or a NO for every single product on sale.

That will really hurt, if not cripple, the food industry. But, hey, they could always try something new, like cleaning out the filth and starting to sell healthy products that do not KILL!

I just won’t hold my breath, as I said!

To your good health,

Prof. Keith Scott-Mumby
The Official Alternative Doctor


1. University of Houston. “How food marketing creates false sense of health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 June 2014.



The post There are Lies, Damned Lies and Food Packaging Labels appeared first on Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby.

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