Food Labeling 101

Simple, clean ingredients and transparency are staples of Botanibites and my own personal philosophy when it comes to eating. What better way to start honoring that by learning more about food labeling!

I became a food label critic when I started working at Whole Foods Market years ago. I quickly became aware of all the BS that is out there around what is on packaging and in our food and body care products.

So for a long time, I fell for all the traps that come with packaging labels.

For example, Natural (same as “All Natural”) doesn't actually mean much of anything. Sure, no artificial ingredients or preservatives, but it could still contain hormones, antibiotics, and other chemical exceptions. Natural flavor listed on ingredient labels includes any flavoring derived from a natural source, but because food labels aren't required to state what this actually includes, it is key for highly food sensitive individuals to try to avoid these as well (more info here).

Sugar free is another deceiving one. It usually means a different sugar derivative, and often times these aren't heavily studied or well known.

And of course there is organic and non-gmo labeling, the two favorites everyone loves to pick apart.

Organic labeling is a bit thorough. There is Organic, Made with Organic, Organic Ingredients, and 100% Organic.

Here is a helpful image for the next time you are shopping and choosing your organics.

But even beyond this simple infographic, there are a ton of companies that also certify products as organic aside from the USDA and they use different requirements for their certification process. It's a lot to look into, but basically 100% Organic is the safest, cleanest, and probably the least often seen. If you come across other organizations or third parties that certify organic products, check out their requirements and guidelines to learn more.

Non-GMO is another popular one and thankfully not as difficult. If it is organic, it's also non-gmo (usually). And if it has the Non-GMO project verified label, it is definitely free of GMOs and that product went through a serious verification process (info on that here).

Gluten free is of course another popular one, especially for those with celiac. Turns out, in order for something to be labeled Gluten Free it has to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten upon testing the sample. Under 20ppm is usually safe for celiacs, but this means some products are right at 19ppm and most are at 10ppm or less. So depending on how sensitive you are to gluten, this may be an issue, but usually it isn't.

We are proud to announce that Botanibites were recently tested for gluten and the results showed that they contain less than 5ppm of gluten (new labels on their way)!

Way under 20ppm despite being home produced - a huge accomplishment! We have hesitated to label Botanibites as Gluten Free but now we can safely and confidently say they are safe for anyone with a gluten allergy or celiac disease!

Paleo, Keto, low carb and other buzz words related to trending diets are now becoming more popular. Many organizations have certification processes for products looking to include food labels that represent these trends, but most are pricey and require annual renewal, with good reason of course.

Those are the basic food labels we most often look for or have trouble understanding. Our philosophy is this: READ THE LABEL! Read each ingredient. If it is hard to pronounce or looks like it would be used in the production of play-doh, then it probably wouldn't be the best energy for your body to consume. Transparency is key and I love companies that aim to produce products with less filler ingredients, additives, artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. So take your time next time you shop and check out the labels of your favorite foods. You will be surprised by what you find.

See Botanibites key ingredients here