Food Packaging Labels: How to Understand Nutrition Facts to Eat Healthier & Save

For most of recorded history, humans were intimately connected with their food. It was essential to know which plants, animals, and fish were edible, as well as the optimal ways to preserve excess foodstuff for periods of drought and famine. Before the invention of canned food in the early 19th century, people typically grew or purchased fresh vegetables and fruit, butchered live animals and birds, and relied on pickling, salting, smoking, sun drying, and underground cold storage to keep their food from spoiling.

Mass-produced processed food gradually replaced fresh food in American diets after World War II, spurred by massive advertising campaigns. The replacement of processed foods for fresh foods extended and complicated the link between food preparation and consumption, forcing consumers to rely on the processes, skills, and integrity of food producers and processors to provide edible, nutritious products free from harmful substances and bacteria.

Our inability to differentiate safe food from spoiled or dangerous food – a skill past generations had when the link between farm and table was more direct – has led to a reliance on food labels as an indication of safety. Unfortunately, consumers are often confused by the various labels, which can lead them to overpay for food with certain labels and throw out perfectly good food because they think it’s past its “expiration date.”

As with anything, knowledge is power when it comes to food labels. Here’s what you need to know to be an informed and savvy consumer.

Food Safety Regulations

Thanks to the meat-packing abuses exposed in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and food industry practices revealed by the Poison Squad of 1902, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Federal Meat Inspection Act, turning the Patent Office’s Agricultural Division into today’s Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 1938, Congress passed the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, significantly expanding the FDA’s authority.

Food safety in the U.S. is provided by three federal agencies, in addition to each state’s public health agencies:

  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition regulates all foods, excluding those within the scope of the FSIS.
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). This agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the labeling and packaging of meat, poultry, egg products, and some fish to ensure safety.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This agency collects data and investigates instances of foodborne illnesses and outbreaks. It’s especially visible in circumstances such as the 2015 Foster Farms salmonella outbreak and Chipotle Mexican Grill E.coli incident.

Before the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, fresh fruits and vegetables were unregulated, and consumers relied on their ability to distinguish the safety of these foods by appearance, feel, and smell. Most fruits and vegetables are now regulated, but those that are considered “rarely consumed raw” remain unregulated.

How to Read Food Labels

The FDA and FSIS rely heavily on manufacturer labeling to inform buyers about the foods they eat. Though different foods are regulated by different federal agencies, producers, processors, and distributors are required to disclose specific data on labels easily visible to consumers. To ensure compliance, food producers, distributors, and retailers are subject to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) prohibition against false and deceptive advertising.

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How to Teach Your Kids to Build & Develop Good Character

Does good character really matter? Is telling the truth important when a lie will avert punishment or help you gain status and wealth? Are personal ethics a benefit or impediment for those trying to climb the corporate ladder? In the real world, does the end justify the means?

These are questions that humans have asked for centuries, but they’re especially significant today as many wonder whether the values and morals that have historically governed human behavior are still relevant in a cutthroat society.

A review of historical figures might suggest that character — the set of morals and beliefs that influence how we interact with others and feel about ourselves — seems to have little effect on people’s ability to gain fame, wealth, or power. In fact, quite the opposite is sometimes true:

  • Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Ayatullah Khomeini have all appeared on the cover of Time magazine as “Person of the Year,” despite causing millions of deaths and unfathomable hardship for their countrymen.
  • Political leaders regularly lie to their constituents and pad their wallets by selling their votes to the highest bidder.
  • Corporate CEOs eliminate or reduce benefits that affect thousands of workers to add an extra dime to quarterly earnings per share while boosting their own income to historically high levels.

Yet while a lack of character might allow the rise of despots, egotists, and ruthless men and women from time to time, history has proved time and again that such leaders ultimately fail. As Harvard Business Review puts it, “Hubris and greed have a way of catching up with people, who then lose the power and wealth they’ve so fervently pursued.”

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Top 10 Most Valuable Types of Collectibles in the World

The desire to accumulate physical objects seems to be inherent, present in the little girl who collects Barbie dolls or the late-night TV host who keeps 126 classic cars and motorcycles in a specially built garage. For some, the motive to search for and acquire a specific item is the sheer fun of the activity. Others seek mementos that stir memories of the past. Fewer still acquire rarities for investment, hoping for enormous profits over time.

Some collectibles are only available to the super-rich due to the cost of acquiring and keeping their purchases safe and secure. What was once available only to kings and queens is now owned by captains of industry, successful financiers, and entertainment moguls. Though individual collections can be worth millions of dollars, well beyond the financial capability of 99% of humanity, they remain fascinating to the majority. Exhibitions of a rare collection draw thousands of visitors, each eager to view the individual pieces up close and personal.

For a look at 10 of the most noteworthy types of collections in the world, check out the following list:

collections, collectibles, investments

Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a Measure of Inflation – How It’s Used

The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, increasingly affects Americans of all ages, incomes, and location. Yet few citizens understand how it’s calculated, how it’s used, or its strengths and shortcomings.

The CPI is one of the most important figures calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It reflects the rate of inflation that has occurred from one period to another, allowing you to understand why your dollars buy less today than yesterday. The Federal Reserve uses the index to set monetary policy, and Congress considers it when determining cost-of-living adjustments to federal benefits and taxes.

Here’s what you need to know to understand the CPI and how it affects our nation’s economy — and your bottom line.

What Is the CPI?

Simply stated, the Consumer Price Index is a weighted measure of the change in prices paid by typical consumers for a representative collection of goods and services over time. The BLS uses a combination of sampling data and statistical analysis to establish the price for a fixed category of goods and service consumed by a family unit during a specific period. A comparison of the index price for two calendar dates provides a close approximation of inflation between the two periods.

Three separate, though related, Consumer Price Indexes are published each month:

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