Is LOVE a food ingredient? Not according to the FDA which recently issued a warning letter to granola brand for including “love” as actual an ingredient on their label. It’s a cute idea and although claiming “Made with Love” on the label is OK, the FDA took issue with listing love as one of the actual ingredients. The company thought the FDA’s response was silly, but I happen to agree with the FDA on this one. I have strong feelings on this issue so hear me out.
Product packaging is inundated with clever slogans; some are truthful while others are often misleading but in general, consumers understand them for what they are; marketing hype. Although companies have some leeway on what they state on product packaging, there are sections of a label that have precise regulations defining what can and can’t be claimed. The Supplement Facts Panel and Ingredient Statement are two such sections where the FDA has mandated exact specifications and where consumers have come to rely on for somewhat truthful information. These two sections disclose all of the ingredients, dosages and serving size; the info that is important to you.
The FDA has precise regulations for these two sections: like how and where each ingredient is listed, calculating Daily Values, rules for rounding, the thickness of the lines and even the font sizes. Rules upon rules on top of more rules! There’s even a rule that states the words “Supplement Facts” on the top of the panel has to be spread across the entire width of the panel. As weird as it looks sometimes, you have to do it. I learned this the hard way when the FDA called us out on it, and we had to reprint thousands of labels.
These rules are justified; they keep at least one part of the label clean and authentic; uncluttered from hype and marketing. As a consumer, you need to discipline yourself to disregard almost the entire label and focus on the crucial information that is on the supplement facts panel. Everything else is a distraction often designed you draw you away from looking at the real ingredients and dosages. Taglines like pharmaceutical grade, doctor recommended, and professional strength; plastered on colorful labels filled with athletes, ice cream scoops, and other shiny things; all misinformation. Disregard it all and focus on the facts!!!!
What about proprietary blends on the supplement facts panels? Sure they are misleading, but they too have their own set of rules that when understood can teach you much about the legitimacy of the product. Worst case scenario – if you see a proprietary blend that does not disclose enough information to analyze the product, just don’t buy it. It’s not just what’s revealed on the panel but also what’s missing from it that will tell you everything you need to know to make an educated purchase.
Now let me get back to the granola company that set me off on this rant. I don’t believe this brand did anything at all to deceive their customers; it was an honest and fun gimmick. Anyone who saw “love” included in the ingredient list would have correctly understood its harmless nature. But here’s my point: once we allow any misdirection of the facts panel we start down a slippery slope. Adding non-existence ingredients like LOVE might be cute, but once we allow it, the next brand will take it a step further, and soon we’ll have to worry about which ingredients are real and which are make-believe.
Remember when we used to all have faith in the label’s protein claim, but then we found that brands were manipulating the protein by spiking nitrogen. The label lost some of its integrity until we learned how to recognize protein spiking. I recently saw a protein product that claimed 30 grams of protein from an 11-gram serving. What??? A closer look revealed an asterisk that leads to the disclaimer “equivalency.” Now we have to worry whether the claim on the label is based on actual protein or its bio-available equivalent of its competitors. As consumers, we can’t allow this, or before we know it, there will be asterisks and emoji’s all over the label destroying all semblance of integrity.
So if you manufacture your products with love, that’s beautiful, but remember it’s a feeling, not a real ingredient. The integrity of the Supplement fact panel is the only thing that allows us to decipher the integrity of the product. Let’s fight to keep it that way.