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.
Non-GMO Project Verified
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are also sparking hot debate these days. GMOs are plants that have genes from other plant species or even animals inserted into their makeup to make them tastier, more nutritious, faster growing, or resistant to bugs and weeds on the farm. Basically, it's like pumping a dog with horse genes to make Rover run faster. Some say these improved traits are awesome and can help meet the world's food demands; others argue that messing with DNA is dangerous and who knows what health or environmental consequences these "Frankenfoods" could have.
GMO opponents want these foods to be labeled so consumers can choose whether they want them or not. California, Washington, and a few other states have introduced bills that would mandate GMO labeling, but in the meantime, the nonprofit Non-GMO Project certifies foods that do not contain these ingredients. Technically, USDA Organic foods already don't contain GMOs, but the Non-GMO Project Verified seal gives added assurance.