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.
Certified Humane Raised & Handled
Found on meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, this seal ensures that animals were raised in clean conditions with adequate shelter and space to move around – luxuries not usually given to animals on giant factory farms. Certified Humane Raised & Handled also means the cows, pigs, and chickens weren't pumped full of growth hormones, which some experts say mess with the human body when these animals are eaten, or antibiotics, which some fear create drug-resistant bacteria that can make humans sick. These items are sometimes organic or free range, but neither is assured by this seal. You can find the Certified Humane Raised & Handled stamp on many prepackaged products and at supermarket meat counters and butcher shops.