What Are You Eating?
Genetically modified, organic, non-GMO, it's enough to make your head spin.
They're all terms you'll find in the grocery store these days, but what do they all mean and how can you decide on the right choice for your family?
Grocery shopping isn't so simple for those of us trying to be careful about what we consume.
Elisa Zied, author of "Nutrition at Your Fingertips," says "Americans increasingly want to know more about their food before they eat or buy it. They want to know where it's made, how it's grown and what's in it."
Sometimes labels help, but sometimes they only make things more confusing.
"It's harder for the consumer to know what they're getting, because now you'll see a big organic label and then when you look on the label it says 70% organic or 83% organic."
"I think it's very difficult for a consumer to understand what exactly it is that they're considering buying."
So we asked nutrition guru and author of "Nutrition at Your Fingertips", Elisa Zied, to simplify it for us starting with genetic foods.
"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 genetic combination that doesn't occur in nature. At least 60-70% of processed foods you find in grocery stores contain at least one genetically engineered ingredient."
The FDA doesn't require specific labels letting you know which foods have been genetically modified.
"The FDA has proposed voluntary standards but there's nothing mandated," says Zied.
But you may see companies point out when they are not genetically modified, with labels that say non-GMO, or GMO free.
"Though you might not see it that often, a PLU sticker on produce can tell you a little something about the food," says Zied.
For example, a five digit number that starts with eight is genetically modified and rarely used, but the stickers with 9's at the beginning stand for organic and can be found on lots of produce. What makes something organic?
"If a food is organic that means it was prepared without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or synthetic fertilizers and it's also not been genetically modified or radiated," says Zied.
You will only see the official usda organic seal on products that have 95% or more organic ingredients.
"If you see made with organic ingredients that means the product contains at least 70% organic ingredients."
There are other things to look for, too. With dairy, markings such as rbgh or rbst will signify things such as artificial hormones. There's even something to look for with sugar.
"When you're reading a label for sugar and its non organic sugar, know that sugar may be sugar from sugar cane with genetically modified sugar beets, " says Zied.
No matter your stance on genetically modified, organic or other products, knowing what your food is made of matters.