5 Words On Food Labels You Shouldn't Get Fooled By
Thanks to the Food Network's drive for ratings, we have a million fancy terms to describe our meals that barely resemble human speech. We sat down to painstakingly document and explain this lexicon and discovered ... that it's all bullshit. You were right to eat nothing but hot fried garbage this whole time. Or, god forgive you, Arby's.
Almost Any Wine Can Be "Award-Winning"
Due to a sitcom-esque mix-up, you've accidentally invited a date and your boss over for dinner tonight. Fortunately, you can impress them both by showing off your elite knowledge of wine. Unfortunately, you don't actually have an elite knowledge of wine. But that's OK; you can just pay extra for a bottle with a fancy-looking award label, then bullshit something about mouth feel, right?
Well, contrary to popular belief, the glamorous awards you see on wine bottle labels don't mean much at all. Wine competitions don't function like Olympic events, wherein thousands of hopefuls are whittled down to the best three, then bestowed with rare honors. If you look at the results of the 2017 International Wine Challenge, there were 9,569 "winners." The majority of wines that enter a competition will walk away with some sort of prize. In one case, it was 70 percent.
According to an anonymous judge, the only way a wine won't be commended is if it makes someone "retch." Another said, "A commended wine is one that causes you less than pain." Wineries will also take awards they won for, say, a 2011 white and slap them on 2017 bottles of red. Or if they somehow failed to "win" anything at all, they'll add their own suspiciously similar-looking labels.
It's all a cheap marketing trick meant to shine up that Shiraz from Nebraska's fourth-finest winery, but it's more than consumers who are getting ripped off. The wineries have to pay for the stickers they put on the bottles, so it's in a competition's interests to hand out as many awards as possible. Drink what you want, but don't feel obligated to pay extra for the bottle with the fanciest stickers. After all, you're not gonna notice the difference between an 87-point bronze and a 91-point silver when you're pairing it with Kraft Mac and Cheese.
All Chicken Is Hormone-Free, Regardless Of Whether They Advertise It
Having hormones in your food is bad, right? We're pretty sure we read that on the BBC, or maybe it was naturalnewz.biz. Either way, lots of people certainly don't want hormones in their food, so many meat companies helpfully inform us that they don't add any.
Which is nice, but unnecessary, because the USDA doesn't allow hormones to be added to chicken or hogs anyway. So when chicken or pork products proudly state "No hormones or steroids added," they somehow neglect to credit the USDA for giving them that fantastic idea. Then mandating it via federal law.
They might as well proclaim "No additional anthrax added!" They can't do that in the first place, and yes, they want a medal for it.
"No Trans Fat" Might Mean "No, Yeah, There Are Some Trans Fats"
Trans fats, according to the scientific consensus which will probably change a week from now, are bad for you. They reduce your good cholesterol levels while increasing bad cholesterol levels, in what food scientists call "a real dick move, man." So it's good to keep an eye out for "No Trans Fat" labels ... Or at least it would be, if foods with those labels truly had no trans fats. Instead, it's more like a landlord telling you that an apartment has zero cockroaches. None. No cockroaches added. Kind of weird that he mentioned that specifically, right?
According to federal regulations, companies can use a "No Trans Fats" label as long as it has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. That might not sound like much, but most foods calculate their serving size with sickly elf children in mind. It adds up. Also, the American Heart Association says that people should eat no more than two grams of trans fats per day, so those phantom half grams are a full quarter of your allowance.
At least there's a handy trick for identifying hidden trans fats. If a product contains hydrogenated oils, those are trans fats. But since the total comes out to 0.49 grams or less, companies can say there's none. So you end up with something like this package of butter spread:
It contains both hydrogenated soybean oil and hydrogenated cottonseed oil. Butter your toast with that, and you're starting your day sucking up the devil of fats.
"Sushi-Grade Fish" Is Fish -- Any Fish
The term "sushi-grade" is used by some grocery stores and restaurants to indicate the highest-quality fish you could possibly wrap seaweed and rice around. You don't make fish sticks out of sushi-grade fish. They've got diplomas from Harvard Fish School, motherfucker. They should be eating you.
It's also a completely meaningless term, as there's no regulation in the U.S. that determines what can be called sushi-grade. When it comes to beef, the USDA is all over that shit. We got "Prime," "Choice," "Select," and "Standard" -- the "miscellaneous quadruped" of meat. Same deal goes with pork and poultry ... but not for the chicken of the sea. Or the anything of the sea.
Any fish can be "sushi-grade." All it takes is someone with a sharp knife and no oven. Maybe the chef really did pick only the finest fish the market had that day, or maybe the grocery store is reasonably sure that the fish is fresh enough that eating it raw won't give you parasites. Have fun gambling on that!
Multigrain Bread Is Nothing But Fancy White Bread
Wheat bread is healthier than white bread, we all know that. And we've told you before how unscrupulous businesses will dye their white bread brown to fool you. But what about multigrain bread? Surely it's healthy too, right? It has "grain" right there in the name. "Multi" of them! All those grains must be good for you. Otherwise, why would they bother?
Well, it's a great marketing term, and ... oh, that's it.
Literally all "multigrain" means is that the bread contains multiple grains, not that any of those grains are necessarily good or healthy. After all, both whole wheat and white bread start out as grain; it's just that whole wheat has fiber and other healthy properties. Multigrain bread could be decently healthy, or it could be (and probably is) a Frankenstein amalgamation of different processed grains, all of which have no more nutritional value than the slice of cake we call white bread. Those grains sprinkled on top of your loaf make it look nice, but they're basically disappointing sprinkles.
This phenomenon is not confined to the bread aisle. For example, a few years ago, Pringles rolled out a line of "healthy" multigrain chips. Their marketing director said they were targeting people 35 and up, who were more interested in counting calories than their younger counterparts. Right after he made his claims to The New York Times, the paper followed up by noting that multigrain Pringles "have about the same amount of sodium and calories as regular Pringles." "Multigrain" is an industry code word for "edible mulch."
Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs. Did you like this article? Do you want to like Mike Bedard even more? Go ahead and follow him on Twitter, then. Hungry for additional mind-blowing content? See Markos' Twitter. When E.M. Caris is not writing for Cracked, you can read his food writing over at the spice subscription service allyoucanspice.com. Greg Tuff is hoping to get on the new season of Big Brother Canada, because things are going great ... Talk him out of it on Twitter.
Food is food, but it should still be eaten out of a quality lunchbox from Herschel.
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