Liar Labels: Is That Farmers Market Food Really Local?

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Unwitting consumers are often duped by misleading (or false) labels on food and drink.

You can’t always believe everything you read. That’s especially true for food and drink labels.

Take the food that you purchase from a farmers market. You likely assume it’s local, and in fact, it’s usually advertised as homegrown. But that’s not always the case.

As detailed in Modern Farmer, a farm apprentice working in New England said his employer was selling produce grown at farms across the country at a local farmers market and passing it off as his own.

That is hardly unique.

According to Money, food and drink labels are often “vague, meaningless or downright fraudulent.” Here are a few instances of labels tricking unwitting consumers:

  • “Local” liquor. The Denver Post said the worst-kept secret in craft distilling is that most liquor is factory-made. Buyers are purchasing booze that they think is handcrafted and distilled in-house, when it’s really mass produced by a factory. “Sometimes the language on labels is an indication—the words ‘produced by’ rather than ‘distilled by’ may be a giveaway that the brand doesn’t make its own product—while other times the labels are even more vague or simply false, and the hope is that no one really unearths the truth,” Money said. If you’re unsure about a product, investigate.
  • “Natural” foods. If you think foods labeled “natural” are free of pesticides, genetically modified organisms and artificial ingredients, think again. Money said there is no federal regulation for the “natural” label term. If natural food is important to you, purchase food with an organic label instead.
  • Pretty much all fish. Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation and advocacy organization, released a study in 2013 that revealed that seafood sold in restaurants, grocery stores and sushi shops, is often mislabeled. In a study of 21 states across the U.S., one-third of fish samples were labeled wrong. In many cases, unsustainable fish were labeled as a more sustainable fish or fish that are listed on the FDA’s do not eat list because of high mercury content were labeled as a safer fish.
  • “Craft” beer. “Amid the rapidly growing craft beer craze, it’s understandable that bigger companies would try to cash in on the trend by selling brews that appear to be made with personal care and ‘small batch’ appeal,” Money said. Unfortunately, that means misleading consumers about what they’re purchasing and drinking. Did you know Blue Moon and Shock Top are owned by MillerCoors, one of the world’s biggest brewing companies? Me neither.

I think it’s sad that you can’t read a label and believe it, but that is the unfortunate reality.

Have you felt duped before with food and drink labels? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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