Back in the day, you might've grabbed a box of cereal, a jar of pasta sauce, or a bag of tortilla chips off the supermarket shelf and not given two thoughts about what was actually inside – other than that the grub tasted good and filled you up. But now that you're aware of how much garbage goes into many packaged foods, and ingredients and calorie and fat tallies are listed right on labels, you probably put more thought into what you toss in your shopping basket. You definitely do if you have specific food allergies or intolerances, or you just generally care where you food comes from.
To help you find products that meet your nutritional needs or ethics, a whole bevy of seals and certifications have exploded onto the scene. The intent is that you can glance at a food label, spot a stamp like USDA Organic or Certified Gluten-Free, and know instantly whether that product fits your criteria without having to pore over ingredients lists. Great idea, but these seals do you little good if you don't understand what they mean. And when a food label is plastered with three, four, five, or more stamps, it makes things cluttered and more confusing. We're here to help. Here's the lowdown on common seals gracing food packaging right now.
If you're among the millions of Americans who can't eat gluten – a protein in wheat, rye, and barley – because you're allergic or intolerant or have celiac disease, then you know that finding foods you can eat is a pain. You have to meticulously scan ingredient lists to make sure there are no gluten-containing ingredients. The Gluten Intolerance Group's Certified Gluten-Free stamp can help you spot potential products more easily, because it assures that an item contains 10 parts per million or less of gluten. About 13,000 products bear this seal, although there are many more gluten-free foods out there that haven't applied for this accreditation.