Have you ever seen on the back of your favorite food container words like “Natural Flavors” “Fortified” or “Enriched”? Well if you notice these unregulated word in your favorites breakfast cereal, lunch time snack or even your frozen dinners, chances are you have fallen in the weasel zone. But what is a weasel?
A weasel /ˈwiːzəl/ is a mammal belonging to the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. The genus includes the least weasels, polecats, stoats, ferrets, and minks. Members of this genus are small, active predators, with long and slender bodies and short legs. In English-speaking areas, weasel can be a disparaging term, noun or verb, for someone regarded as sneaky, conniving or untrustworthy. Similarly, weasel words is a critical term for words or phrasing that are vague, misleading or equivocal.
In our use here Weasel words are crafty ways food manufacturers hide or weasel away the truth about what is really in your sugar frosted flake or peanut butter. The reality is much more frightening than you might even imagine and the reasoning for its excessive use may even alarm you. If you want to learn more, I would spend some time on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the US Department of Agriculture’s website. Suffice it to say, weasel words demand a reckoning. So let’s start with Natural Flavors
When you thinks of natural flavors what do you imagine this is? A farmer packaging his or her vegetable from the fields. Do you imagine one of those orange juice commercials? The scene opens with the citrus farmer handing a would-be mother a carton of “fresh Squeezed” OJ through the refrigeration isle? Well poop is natural and so is dirt and even bugs, tree bark and grass. All of these are Natural flavors but would you want to ingest them? Probably not. The weasel zone allows for all types of unknown natural flavor ingredients. They are generally accepted but not regulated definition of natural flavoring is substances obtained from plant or animal raw materials, by physical, microbiological or enzymatic processes. They can be either used in their natural state or processed for human consumption, but cannot contain any nature-identical or artificial flavoring substances. However would you want to eat cornflakes with bug parts or poop? Well by definition you could. These substance may be contributing to a multitude of health problems including diabetes or certain types of cancer.
In the not too distant past it was determined that a major breakfast cereal was being fortified with iron. This is no surprised except for the type of iron it was being fortified with. In fact manufactures were simply using iron shaving. Yes the same stuff that makes up the railroad tracts. The industry regulators quickly put a stop to that but technically they were not breaking the law. What they did is create Weasel phrasing like “fortified with iron”. When you see the words “fortified with” dig a little deeper to see if this fortification is as useless as putting iron dust in your raisin bran and may over time be potentially hazardous to your health. The last weasel word is Enriched.
The word enriched appears frequently in baking goods such as flower. The fact of the matter is anytime you have to enrich a product, this normally means that it was stripped of the naturally occurring nutrient during manufacturing. Enriched is not all bad. But be aware that if you see this on the back of a food label it’s there as a weasel word and you may need to get the truth.
Good Eating is one of the best forms of health care other than sleep, exercise, water. It’s something that we must do to survive. We must however be ever vigilante to what you put in your gut. As the Maxim goes, “You are what you eat.” So put in your body mostly the best stuff for it and use the weasel worded foods in moderation.
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