Style – Food Label Shenanigans

Posted: July 18, 2013 in NERDSTEAK - Food Rant
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We in the food industry love to figure out the best way to sell a product with a romance description, crisp food photography, and innovative packaging, because these are all the things that affect what you buy, before you have a chance to eat it.  However, there is always a bit of trickery in this process.  This could be hand placed fresh ingredients for the photo, an exaggeration of the flavor profile, and my personal favorite, playing with the standard of identity.

For instance, to call something ‘Greek yogurt,’ it’s traditionally a strained yogurt made with Greek milk with a high protein content, and thicker consistency with less sugar than standard yogurt.  This is the standard of identity which must be submitted and regulated before a product can be labeled as ‘Greek yogurt’.  You can throw all of that our the door if you label it as ‘Greek-style yogurt’.  Now you can add thickening agents, flavors, or other dairy products to have a final yogurt that tastes LIKE Greek yogurt, without having it produced in the standard way. Shenanigans.

There are many examples of this in both foodservice and retail establishments.  Andouille-style sausage, firebaked style flatbreads…the list goes on.  Whenever there is a a regulation in place for a product description, using the word ‘style’ gives us a little leeway.  If you are looking for traditional products or ingredients, avoid items labeled as ‘yada-style yada’.  The advantage of incorporating the word ‘style’ is that the product is usually at a better price point, last longer, better organoleptic properties over shelf-life, and it some cases, consumers aren’t concerned if it is authentic.  I am not saying either is right or wrong, just make sure you know what you are looking for.

There are also food items that have NO standard of identity, which then can use whatever they so desire as a descriptor.


What are some of your favorite misleading food terms?

  1. Dale says:

    Great post and words to the wise. I’ll offer a twist on the notion that adding the word “style” doesn’t always represent an intent to deceive (though in many cases like the ones you list, that would be true). The best example I can think is in the production of beer where a manufacturer may use the word “style” to indicate an “influence” without intending any shenanigans. “Belgian-styled” beers or “German-Styled” are common … or even a few recent beers I reviewed that said they were brewed in the style of a “lager” or an “Irish red-ale.” Maybe I’m too trusting, but when the beer is clearly brewed in Canada, I think the intent is honourable.

    Should be an interesting discussion. Thanks.

  2. A.J. Goode says:

    “Pasteurized cheese food”. We all know Velveeta isn’t really cheese, right?

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