Free-from….What Does It Mean?

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on July 13, 2017 · 0 comments

Free-from should mean that a food contains no amount of, or only trivial or inconsequential amounts of an ingredient.

Calorie free means fewer than 5 calories per serving.

Sugar free, fat free and trans fat free means less than 0.5 grams per serving.

Cholesterol free means less than 2 milligrams per serving.

Sodium free means less than 5 milligrams per serving.

Gluten free means the food does not contain any ingredients that have gluten such as wheat, rye or barley. But, that does not take into account potential cross contamination if the food is processed in a facility that also produces foods with gluten. To be sure that a food is truly gluten free it should be certified or the label should state “processed in a dedicated gluten-free facility.”

Allergen free means that a food does not contain any of the eight foods that account for 90% of all food allergies – milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans – as designated in the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. If you or someone in your home has a food allergy, you still need to scan the ingredient list because over 160 foods can cause allergic responses or sensitivity.

Hormone free messaging used by restaurants, meat companies and grocery stores can be misleading. First, all living things have hormones present naturally and they are needed to reproduce and live. Did you know that there are Federal regulations which prohibit the use of added hormones when raising pigs or poultry? In beef production, hormone supplementation can be used. So “raised without added hormones or hormone free” can be added to a label. You should know that the difference in hormone residue  in one serving of beef from cattle that were never treated with hormones and those that have been treated is in tenths of a nanogram (a nanogram is a billionth of a gram, roughly the equivalent of one kernel of wheat in a train carload of wheat).

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