Oils, Syntax, AND/OR Food Labeling: The Era of Thinking All Food Oil Is Identical is Over

Do you read food labels? And if so, do you even know what you’re reading? Certainly, I mean no offense to the reader; it’s just that many pre-packaged foods we buy at the supermarket contain ingredients with strange-sounding multi-syllabic names that sound more appropriate in a lab setting, which most people have never heard uttered before, though fairly commonly used as food ingredients in processed foods.

A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S.

Essential reading, kids. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S.

Whether you recognize every ingredient or not, reading labels is an essential step in self-empowerment and control of one’s diet. So, start on your next trip to the store or keep up the good habit! Slowly, as you learn the foreign language of the American food label, all the jargon will be deciphered and you’ll understand what every ingredient is and where it comes from. Mandatory reading is A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S.

I noticed something rather peculiar about our US labeling laws that I’ve meant to write about for years and years, literally. In fact, I’d like to see the laws changed, if possible. By now, if you’re not curious whether this is just a teaser or there’s some potentially hazardous practice when it concerns food labeling, you should be.

In fact, this is not a teaser or an attempt to garner views by sensationalism. And, the changes I propose could save lives, or at the very least, help us all to be more informed food product consumers. What I find so disturbing is this: All labels, for all sorts of food products, have an ingredient list –so far, so good — however,  some labels are ambiguous about precisely which oils are used in creation of that particular item.

Comparison of Dietary Fats Image Credit: Wikipedia.Org

Comparison of Dietary Fats. Notice, all differ significantly.
Image Credit: Wikipedia.Org
from Wikipedia

Particularly, we find the phrase “and/or” indicating that the food item may made with any of the oils listed sequentially as a sub-list within the ingredient list, either singly or in combination. How confusing!

Food Label With AND/OR Logic.

Food Label With AND/OR Logic.

In the era when food labeling became mandatory, far less was known about human nutrition. As it turns out, not all oils are the same nutritionally, and have vastly different lipid molecule profiles and effects on health.

Oil isn’t just a food lubricant or generic term; different types of vegetable oil contain different aromatics, as well as potential allergic compounds. Shouldn’t the consumer know exactly what she is about to purchase and ultimately consume?

Allergens are common; this is acknowledged fact. Having precise labeling makes more sense, in that a consumer always knows exactly what’s in a particular product. There is no room for ambiguity here; consumers should know exactly what they’re eating.

The Waning Days of Summer image credit: Robert Cross

The Waning Days of Summer.
image credit: Robert Cross
Fields of gold under Norwegian skies, as the days are getting noticeably shorter. Where has the time gone? Image Credit: David Cross

There are also numerous studied benefits attributable to certain oils; if a consumer buys a food product for its nutriceutical qualities, shouldn’t they be sure that the oil conferring any health benefits is actually contained in the product?

And, with the focus on health and longevity and epi-genetic data that suggests lifestyle change could affect DNA expression positively, many more people are assuming conscious mindful control of their nutritional habits, not just dieting to shed pounds or trim the tummy, as was the case for the last century, but actually eating more healthily by making more informed food choices for themselves and their families. This is certainly an aspect of our emerging wellness-oriented culture.

Palm Oil Production Image Credit: Hodag

Palm Oil Production.
Image Credit: Hodag

So for many, knowing precisely which oil they’re eating is just as important as whether the grain used in the product is derived from oats, corn, or wheat.  Further, some actively avoid certain oils, such as canola, corn, or even palm oil. Some avoid these ingredients because of the ethics involved in harvesting and de-forestation, as is the case with palm oil.

Other people claim that canola oil is unhealthy; this is their right, and if it’s based in science, why not? Actually, we can pick and choose what we eat even based on our capricious whims; again, that’s our right, after all.

And, there’s cost. Some oils are just cheaper than others; another fact we can’t avoid in this discussion. Is it fair to the consumer to be “baited and switched”, loading up in the cheap oil, say palm oil,  while avoiding the finer, more expensive oil in the ingredient list, for example olive oil? Surely, this hasn’t been found to be the case, but then consider that  no one is checking. Of course, as is, companies can be unclear and dupe the consumer.

Olive Oil image credit: You as A Machine

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the Elixir of Life, Claim Many.
image credit: You as A Machine

Finally, there is a more serious issue: Each oil has a different profile of different types of lipids, such as Omega-6 and Omega-9, to name but two of far many more. How could the percentages of saturated and unsaturated fats always be accurate on a product label that uses the sentential connective “OR”, provided that there are variable blends of oil used with different percentages of saturated and unsaturated fats?

Certainly, the result of a change in oil constituency would mean that a truly scientifically accurate label must necessarily change to reflect the different amounts of fats in each oil, as no two oils are identical in this regard.

What next? Maybe a move to petition a change in the law. Food labels should never contain the OR logical function, as a recipe may contain a set of alternative ingredients, but not a food label. Labels should always consist of a list of ingredients that is static, in set amounts, at least until a product improvement or change.

Syntax is crucial; the way we choose to set rules for our food labeling actually determines a lot about how informed consumers will be, and ultimately how much control we all have over our food choices. And, presently, the FDA law permits consumers to be in the dark on a very important part of their food, the choice of cooking oil used by the manufacturer.

Authored by D Alban. Copyright 2018 D ALBAN, H MILLER (NJMassages.Com/Articles)

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