The kinds of claims marketers can make, especially when it comes to products that can be used on or in the human body, are tightly regulated by various agencies. A lot of the claims cannot be used freely – they have to receive prior approval from the Federal Trade Commission.
It should be easy to understand why these terms are regulated since phrases like ‘low-sodium’ and ‘kills 99% of germs’ undeniably drive sales.
What’s not so apparent, however, is the fact that these terms aren’t as clear-cut as companies want to make them seem. It’s important to understand them in order to make informed decisions that affect both you and your family.
Some words don’t mean what you think
Regulation of claims is done to ensure products are not misleading in how they present themselves. Disease risk deduction claims, for instance, have to be reviewed and backed up by the government beforehand. The scientific data is then posted for public consumption.
However, a lot of the claims made by brands are not necessarily backed up by good science. For instance, general health claims like having a healthy check mark do not need approval. They shouldn’t be misleading or false, but the only way to know the science adds up is to ask for the report they prepared and inspect them yourself.
For instance, ‘low sodium’ typically means that the product contains 140mg or less of sodium per serving. Phrases like ‘good source of’ mean that it has 10 to 19 percent of the recommended daily value of a certain nutrient.
Lookout for buzzwords
More and more consumers want simpler products with fewer ingredients, and manufacturers have taken note. As such, words like ‘simple,’ ‘organic’ and ‘all natural’ have taken center stage. These don’t have to be reviewed by the government and aren’t necessarily truthful.
For example, anyone who has taken any of the dozen exam prep courses, can tell you that the only way to be sure is to do some valuable research beforehand. The best way to ensure this is going through the reviews online to make sure they back up their claims with data, for example, Surgent CPA review.
Make sure the manufacturer’s implied definition of the word that you’re so keen on looking out for matches your own definition. Or, if you’d rather avoid the hassle, only buy FDA-approved products, which locks you into a much narrower range.
Good health claims aren’t always healthy
While a product might have managed to get away with claiming it’s a ‘good source of calcium,’ this might fool customers into thinking it’s healthy food. There are several instances when it doesn’t add any real value to the food.
For example, cookies that contain a reasonable amount of calcium and are approved may also still contain fats and 90% sugar. These are clearly not healthy but are still a ‘good source of calcium.’
Other times, the product may contain so little of the said nutrient that it doesn’t have any overall impact on the product itself. It may still contain a lot of calories while claiming to be ‘all natural.’
Should you trust these claims?
Interestingly enough, a study at the University of Toronto found that products with health claims tend to be healthier than those without them. However, a lot of foods with low nutritional quality still found their way on the list of products with the mark.
Because these health claims are not necessarily regulated, and might just highlight the best part of the ingredients, for example, fennel seeds, it’s important to take a look at what their overall nutrition profile is. Take a look at the ingredient list and nutrition table at the back to get a good sense of the overall quality of the food you’re buying.