Can You Trust Food Labels?

By Candace Kelley

For many people, going to the store is all about looking at labels. Health conscious shoppers want to know what they’re buying is organic or natural or kosher. But how do we know the label is telling the truth?

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors and the Food and Drug Administration say Barry Steinlight of Raw Deal, a Flanders dietary supplement company that made millions. He pleaded guilty to adding cheaper ingredients to his products and falsifying records saying his supplements were “organic and kosher” when they were not.

So how do you know if what you are buying is really organic or all natural? Well, it’s all about the labeling, and you have the right to ask questions.

Some companies may say they are selling organic products.

“People call themselves organic but that doesn’t mean they necessarily are. So the proper way and the way that is enforced in this state is to go through those services that do this, that enable them to be able to claim that they’re certified organic,” said Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher.

Look for an organic seal of approval when you are shopping. If anyone is marketing their products as organic, then their products have to be certified by a USDA-accredited agent — or else face fines. And if the product is touted as “certified,” you can ask to see a copy of the organic certification paperwork. Vendors are supposed to have it on hand.

And is that beef you are eating really grass-fed?

“These are marketing claims and obviously there are different types of ways that they are either growing or finishing animals for consumption and grass-fed vs. grain-fed, a whole host of ways animals are finished or grown,” Fisher said.

And so fat, The FDA also hasn’t developed a definition for natural so it’s up to the company to tell the truth and up to you do do your research. This means trusting that kosher labeling on the product is in fact kosher for example. But one of the ways to be really sure of whether or not that label is telling the truth is to connect with a trusted New Jersey farmer who raises and grows the foods you want.

“Our certification process is rigorous and I encourage folks that are going out to 94 farms and operations that are certified in the state selling certified-New Jersey organic, that it really is a great seal of approval,” said Fisher.

There are farms, he says, that can people can rely on.