Sheri’s Rants #44: READ THE LABEL!

Posted on October 3, 2010 by


Ingredients Change Over Time

I have been caught by surprise many times with ingredient shifts on products that previously had my loyalty – and I am attentive!  Several times I discovered changes in ingredients after becoming quite ill and doing the detective work to figure out what happened.

This last year I was invited to attend the Natural Foods Expo in Anaheim, CA  and learned exactly how products reach the health food market.  It changed my world view on packaged food completely.  Sparing you a serious rant, the bottom line is that health food products, once picked up by a large manufacturer (Cargill, NutraCal, Monsanto, Phillip Morris, ConAgra…) shift significantly in ingredients used.  Further,  the ingredients used in both standard grocery items and health food items are the same.  The primary difference is packaging to the consumer to get you to see the product in a particular way (marketing).  And no, you won’t see those corporations named on the products that they own.

The food industry is always looking for ways to make products cheaper, and they are injecting more and more corn, soy and wheat by-products into packaged products under unusual names.  MSG, for instance. The industry knows the public is ‘on to’ MSG so they call it by about 23 other names.  Some of those names include sodium caseinate, carageenan, textured vegetable protein, yeast extract, hydrolyzed yeast extract, glutamic acid, gelatin, and calcium caseinate.  Corn is hidden as glucose syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrin, maltodextrin, invert sugar or invert syrup, malt, malt syrup, malt extract, mono and di- glycerides, modified food starch, food starch, xanthan gum…on and on.

Once a health food product is bought by a large corporation for manufacturing and distribution (and this is the only way a small manufacturer can get national distribution!), the product will shift significantly in terms of both quality and composition.  This shift will happen over time so that loyal consumers are weaned to the new formulation.  The industry knows that once you are loyal to a product, you’ll quit looking at the label.  They are relying on your buying habits.

Just because the label says ‘organic’, ‘healthy’, ‘0 trans fats’ or makes other claims does not mean that product is healthy for you.  Just because a product is in a health food store does not mean it is healthy for you, either. READ THE LABEL and know what you’re reading!  Here’s an example:

Casey’s Chemical Soup

Casey’s medical doctor had her on specialized ‘diet foods’ to drop weight.  Over the course of the ‘diet’, she did lose weight.  She also lost much of her hair, experienced debilitating gut and leg cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, irritability and many other uncomfortable physical symptoms of rapidly deteriorating health.  ‘Because I was losing weight’ she says ‘I thought that the symptoms were just part of it.’  After a serious health scare her doctor suggested gastric bypass surgery, and that’s when Casey contacted Genesis Transformation.

Excited about beginning Genesis Transformation, Casey asked if she could continue to use the protein powder from her doctor (the ‘diet foods’ were quite the financial investment).  Here are the ingredients of the protein powder:

Calcium Caseinate, Corn Syrup Solids, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sunflower Oil, Magnesium Phosphate, Nonfat Milk, Sodium Caseinate, Potassium Bicarbonate, Modified Food Starch, Guar Gum, Aspartame*, Salt, Dipotassium Phosphate, Monoglycerides, Vitamin C, Soy Lecithin, Carrageenan, Sucralose, Ferric Orthophosphate, Tocopherol (To protect flavor), Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol Acetate), Niacinamide, Copper Gluconate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Chromium Amino Acid Chelate, Selenium Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Yellow #5, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Molybdenum Amino Acid Chelate, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Yellow #6, Folic Acid, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin K (Phytonadione), Magnesium Carbonate, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin).

Now, this is a worst case scenario when it comes to protein powder, and a great example of what to avoid when researching protein powders (and labels in general).  This ingredient label reads like a chemical soup!

Breaking Down the Label

CALCIUM CASEINATE – is a very cheap form of protein.  Casein has a molecular structure that is quite similar to that of gluten. Thus, those with gluten sensitivity want to avoid it.  Dr. T. Colin Campbell argues in his book The China Study that casein, found in many prepared foods, is a carcinogen.  Casein is often listed as sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate or milk protein.  Note that the ingredients list above contains both calcium caseinate and sodium caseinate, but no whey isolate or whey concentrate (higher bio-available forms of protein).  Casein is used in some adhesives, paints and beauty products.

Buried in this ingredients list you’ll find 5 corn by-products, 2 artificial sweeteners, HFCS for primary sweetening (the second ingredient!), artificial colors, MSG twice,  3 soybean products and a smattering of low grade non bio-available ‘vitamins’.  Possible real food ingredient: nonfat milk, the 5th ingredient on the list (and well after the corn syrup!)

What To Look For

When YOU are in the store hunting down protein powder, use the following parameters to help you decide on the product:

  • 20- 25 grams protein per serving
  • No Sugar, corn syrup, or fructose
  • No Maltodextrin
  • No Aspartame
  • No Sucralose
  • No Acesulfame-K
  • No Artificial Sweeteners or Colors
  • Made With Stevia for sweetening
  • No Casein
  • under 5 g carbohydrates/serving
  • about 100 calories/serving


Read the labels of anything you are putting into your mouth and strive to understand them. If you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it!

The fewer ingredients on a label, the better.  Always read your labels closely, even and perhaps especially if it is a product you’ve been using for awhile.  You can tell if a product has reached national distribution and is corporate owned if you find that product in Costco, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart and other large warehouse type stores.  REMEMBER: there is a REASON that product is suddenly cheap!  Chemicals and soy-corn-wheat by-products are VERY cheap.  Real food is not.

Please support your local farmers and ranchers.  This is the ONLY way we can keep real food on our tables.  Seriously.

Posted in: Sheri's Rants