Understanding New Food Labels

BOSTON (CBS) – Grocery shopping is much more complicated than it used to be.

There are all sorts of new food labels: organic, partially organic, conventional, and genetically modified.

Reading grocery store labels can be tricky for those trying to be careful about what they eat.

Sometimes labels help, sometimes they just add to the problem

Registered dietitian Elisa Zide says you need to understand a few basics beginning with genetic foods.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

Zide says, “If a food is genetically modified it means its genes are altered, DNA from one species is inserted into another species to create a unique combination that does not occur in nature.”

The FDA doesn’t require labels indicating foods are genetically modified. But you may see some products listed as free of modified ingredients with abbreviations like, “Non-GMO” or “GMO Free”.

Also, a sticker on produce can tell you something about the food.

For example, a five digit number that starts with eight is genetically modified. Stickers with a 9 at the beginning indicate the item is organic.

If a food is organic that means it was prepared without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or synthetic fertilizes and it’s also not been genetically modified or radiated.

You will only see the official USDA organic seal on products that have 95% or more organic ingredients.

With dairy, rBGH or rBST signifies artificial hormones, and even sugar can be tricky.

When you are reading a label for sugar and it’s non organic sugar, know that sugar may be sugar from sugar cane, with genetically modified sugar beets.

According to Zide, up to 70 percent of processed foods you’ll find in the grocery store contain at least one genetically engineered ingredient.

Experts say choosing locally produced organic foods are your best bet to insure you’re eating only what nature created.

The FDA has a website to help understand food labels.

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