How Food Manufacturers Trick
Us With Deceptive Ingredient Lists
Ingredient lists on food products are supposed
to be designed to inform consumers about what's contained in the
product. The reality is that these ingredient lists are frequently
used by food manufacturers to deceive consumers and trick them
into thinking products are healthier (or better quality) than
they really are.
Deceiving consumers: Tricks of the food
Tips For Reading Ingredients Labels
If the Nutrition Facts section on food
packaging list all the substances that go into a food product,
how can they deceive consumers? Here are a few of the most common
One of the most common tricks is to distribute sugars
among many ingredients so that sugars don't appear in the top
three. For example, a manufacturer may use a combination of sucrose,
high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, brown sugar, dextrose
and other sugar ingredients to make sure none of them are present
in large enough quantities to attain a top position on the ingredients
list (remember, the ingredients are listed in order of their proportion
in the food, with the most common ingredients listed first).
This fools consumers into thinking the food product isn't really
made mostly of sugar while, in reality, the majority ingredients
could all be different forms of sugar. It's a way to artificially
shift sugar farther down the ingredients list and thereby misinform
consumers about the sugar content of the whole product.
Another trick is to pad the list with miniscule amounts of
great-sounding ingredients. You see this in personal care
products and shampoo,
too, where companies claim to offer "herbal" shampoos that have
practically no detectable levels of real herbs
in them. In foods, companies pad the ingredients lists with healthy-sounding
herbs or superfoods that are often only present in miniscule amounts.
Having "spirulina" appear at the end of the ingredients list is
practically meaningless. There's not enough spirulina in the food
to have any real effect on your health. This trick is called "label
padding" and it's commonly used by junk food
manufacturers who want to jump on the health food bandwagon
without actually producing healthy foods.
Hiding Dangerous Ingredients
A third trick involves hiding dangerous ingredients behind innocent-sounding
names that fool consumers into thinking they're safe. The highly
carcinogenic ingredient sodium nitrite, for example, sounds perfectly
innocent, but it is well documented to cause brain tumors, pancreatic
cancer, colon cancer and many other cancers (just search Google
Scholar for sodium nitrite to see a long list of supporting research.
Carmine sounds like an innocent food coloring, but it's
actually made from the smashed bodies of red cochineal beetles.
Of course, nobody would eat strawberry yogurt if the ingredients
listed, "Insect-based red food coloring" on the label, so instead,
they just call it "carmine."
Similarly, yeast extract sounds like a perfect safe food
ingredient, too, but it's actually a trick used to hide monosodium
a chemical taste enhancer used to excite the flavors of overly-processed
foods) without having to list MSG on the label. Lots of ingredients
contain hidden MSG. Virtually all hydrolyzed or autolyzed
ingredients contain some amount of hidden MSG.
Don't Be Fooled By The Name Of The Product
Did you know that the name of the food product has nothing to
do with what's in it? Brand-name food companies make products
like "Guacamole Dip" that contains no avocado! Instead, they're
made with hydrogenated soybean oil and artificial green coloring
chemicals. But gullible consumers keep on buying these products,
thinking they're getting avocado dip when, in reality, they're
buying green-colored, yummy-tasting dietary poison.
Food names can include words that describe ingredients not found
in the food at all. A "cheese" cracker, for example, doesn't have
to contain any cheese. A "creamy" something doesn't have to contain
cream. A "fruit" product need not contain even a single molecule
of fruit. Don't be fooled by product names printed on the
packaging. These names are designed to sell products, not to accurately
describe the ingredients contained in the package.
Ingredients Lists Don't Include Contaminants
There is no requirement for food ingredient lists to include the
names of chemical contaminants, heavy metals, bisphenol-A, PCBs,
perchlorate or other toxic substances found in the food. As a
result, ingredient lists don't really list what's actually in
the food, they only list what the manufacturer wants you to
believe is in the food.
This is by design, of course. Requirements for listing food ingredients
were created by a joint effort between the government and private
industry (food corporations). In the beginning, food corporations
didn't want to be required to list any ingredients at all. They
claimed the ingredients were "proprietary knowledge" and that
listing them would destroy their business by disclosing their
secret manufacturing recipes. It's all nonsense, of course, since
food companies primarily want to keep consumers ignorant of
what's really in their products. That's why there is still
no requirement to list various chemical contaminants, pesticides,
heavy metals and other substances that have a direct and substantial
impact on the health of consumers.
Manipulating Serving Sizes
Food companies have also figured out how to manipulate the serving
size of foods in order to make it appear that their products are
devoid of harmful ingredients like trans
fatty acids. The FDA created a loophole for reporting trans
fatty acids on the label: Any food containing 0.5 grams or less
of trans fatty acids per serving is allowed to claim ZERO trans
fats on the label.
Exploiting this 0.5 gram loophole, companies arbitrarily reduce
the serving sizes of their foods to ridiculous levels -- just
enough to bring the trans fats down to 0.5 grams per serving.
Then they loudly proclaim on the front of the box, "ZERO Trans
Fats!" In reality, the product may be loaded with trans fats (found
oils), but the serving size has been reduced to a weight that
might only be appropriate for feeding a ground squirrel, not a
The next time you pick up a grocery product, checking out the
"No. of servings" line in the Nutrition Facts box. You'll likely
find some ridiculously high number there that has nothing to do
with reality. A cookie manufacturer, for example, might claim
that one cookie is an entire "serving" of cookies. But do you
know anyone who actually eats just one cookie? If one cookie contains
0.5 grams of trans fatty acids, the manufacturer can claim the
entire package of cookies is "Trans Fat FREE!" In reality, however,
the package might contain 30 cookies, each with 0.5 grams of trans
fats, which comes out to 15 grams total in the package.
This is how you get a package of cookies containing 15 grams of
trans fats (which is a huge dose of dietary poison) while claiming
to contain ZERO grams. Again, it's just another example of how
food companies use Nutrition Facts and ingredients lists to deceive,
not inform, consumers.
Here are some additional tips for successfully decoding ingredients
1. Remember that ingredients are listed in order of their proportion
in the product. This means the first 3 ingredients matter far more
than anything else. The top 3 ingredients are what you're primarily
2. If the ingredients list contains long, chemical-sounding words
that you can't pronounce, avoid that item. It likely does contain
chemicals. Why would you want to eat them? Stick with ingredients
3. Don't be fooled by fancy-sounding herbs or other ingredients
that appear very far down the list. Some food manufacturer that
includes "goji berries" towards the end of the list is probably
just using it as a marketing gimmick on the label. The actual amount
of goji berries in the product is likely miniscule.
4. Remember that ingredients lists don't have to list chemical
contaminants. Foods can be contaminated with pesticides, solvents,
acrylamides, PFOA, perchlorate (rocket fuel) and other toxic chemicals
without needing to list them at all. The best way to minimize your
ingestion of toxic chemicals is to buy organic, or go with fresh,
5. Look for words like "sprouted" or "raw" to indicate higher-quality
natural foods. Sprouted grains and seeds are far healthier than
non-sprouted. Raw ingredients are generally healthier than processed
or cooked. Whole grains are healthier than "enriched" grains.
6. Don't be fooled by the word "wheat" when it comes to flour. All
flour derived from wheat can be called "wheat flour," even if it
is processed, bleached and stripped of its nutrition. Only "whole
grain wheat flour" is a healthful form of wheat flour. (Many consumers
mistakenly believe that "wheat flour" products are whole grain products.
In fact, this is not true. Food manufacturers fool consumers with
7. Don't be fooled into thinking that brown products are
healthier than white products. Brown sugar is a gimmick --
it's just white sugar with brown coloring and flavoring added. Brown
are no different than white eggs (except for the fact that their
shells appear brown). Brown bread may be no healthier than white
bread, either, unless it's made with whole
grains. Don't be tricked by "brown" foods. These are just gimmicks
used by food giants to fool consumers into paying more for manufactured
8. Watch out for deceptively small serving sizes. Food manufacturers
use this trick to reduce the number of calories, grams of sugar
or grams of fat believed to be in the food by consumers.
Many serving sizes are arbitrary and have no basis in reality.
9. Want to know how to really shop for foods? Download the free
Food Guide, the honest reference to foods that has now been
downloaded by over 800,000 people. It's a replacement for the USDA's
highly corrupt and manipulated Food Guide Pyramid, which is little
more than a marketing document for the dairy industry and big food
corporations. The Honest Food Guide is an independent, nutritionally-sound
reference document that reveals exactly what to eat (and what to
avoid) to maximize your health.