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Labelsplaining

What is labelsplaining?

Labelsplaining is a term the Foodspace Nutrition Team uses to describe their process of analyzing CPG food items based on packaging, nutrition, and ingredients. The team thinks critically about food packages and label imagery we see and work with on a daily basis to explain what the label jargon, regulated terminology, and nutrition facts mean in digestible terms (the team really loves food puns). They focus on one CPG food item to labelsplain and communicate the scientific, regulatory, and industry language in a way that consumers and food industry professionals can learn from and incorporate on a daily basis.  

To organize the analysis our team will focus on language, certifications, and statements that are government regulated, retailer specific, and 3rd party certified. Their other comments will be grouped as miscellaneous feedback. 

Labelsplaining does not involve food shaming or judgement, health recommendations, or personal preferences. We stick to the nutrition facts; information presented is not indicative of Foodspace partnerships or affiliations.  

Item of the week: Organic Morning O’s Cereal 

FDA Regulated 

  • Low Fat – To qualify as “Low Fat” the Total Fat content of a product must be less than 5% of the Daily Value (78g/day) per serving. This cereal contains 2.5g per 1.5 cups, which is 3% of the Daily Value. 
  • Good Source of Fiber – To qualify as a “Good Source of Fiber” a product must contain between 10 and 19% of the Daily Value for Dietary Fiber.

Retailer Specific

  • Vegan – Whole Foods defines vegan foods to be, “those without animal products, including meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs and honey”. There is no universal definition of veganism and it is not a regulated term so vegan is applied differently depending on brands, retailers, products, and individual preferences.

Third Party

  • OU Kosher – A private certification by OU Kosher is an acknowledgment that a product is made from ingredients acceptable to the laws and traditions of Jewish tradition detailed in the Torah, Talmud, and other religious texts. Kosher products are produced under Kosher supervision and are verified by a rabbinic Agency.
  • Whole Grains Council Stamp – This cereal box contains a stamp from the Whole Grains Council that states the grain ingredients of the product are at least 50% whole grain per serving. The Whole Grains Council sets standards in grams, this may be confusing for consumers who do not calculate their serving size by weight. The Whole Grains Council suggests people eat 3 food products labeled “100% whole grain” or 6 products with any of their stamps to meet a daily intake of 48 grams of whole grains. 
  • USDA Organic – The Agricultural Marketing Service and Organic Certifiers are responsible for the USDA Organic certification seal on food packages. To receive this seal a food product must meet organic production and handling requirements, pay for certification fees, and follow usage guidelines. 

Online vs In Store

This cereal’s online product listing calls out additional attributes and contains discrepancies when compared to the physical package our team accessed. Online the item’s attributes include dairy-free and vegetarian in addition to kosher, low-fat, vegan, and organic. Between the package we analyzed and the Whole Foods online product listing we found differences in Total Carbohydrates, Protein, Iron, and Potassium as well as differences in Ingredient lists. The differences in ingredients also shift the allergen statement, the online label says the food “may contain wheat” whereas our package says it “contains wheat ingredients”. 
The website disclaimer does state that information presented online is for reference only and that consumers should always read the food label for their dietary and nutrition needs. 

Takeaways

Online grocery and food shopping is an incredible opportunity for industry and consumers; however, there is a critical lack of information and data to power these services.  Foodspace has noticed approximately 70% of CPG food products listed at an online retailer contain at least 1 error. 

Invest in #JustGoodData by working with Foodspace so your online products are discoverable and accurate. 

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