Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's in a Name? Part 1

As many of you walk through the store you come across packaging terms that seem to express quality, but are these really quality products, or are these terms nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) records and defines “Standards of Identity” which are terms used for certain foods that cannot be used on other foods. For example, you can’t legally label whipped topping as whipped cream, since one is made from oil and one is made from milk fat. These standards are put in place to assure truth and honesty in producing and packaging any product. However, not every term is identified, and as a new term becomes popular and is used over and over, if it needs to be defined, the FDA will work toward coming up with a standard definition. Let’s take a look at a few terms that have become popular in recent years:

Center Cut: Certain types of bacon are referred to as Center Cut Bacon and they are sold for premium prices. What does it mean to buy Center Cut Bacon? Well, nothing much. All bacon is center cut to begin with. Some packagers will trim away some of the fat and sell you 12 ounces for the 16 ounce price (or higher) and all you’re getting is less bacon. Mostly, though, this term is just used to imply quality. It’s better than saying, “Made from loose scraps.”

Artisan: What is artisan bread? Well, the term “artisan” is a noun for starters, and refers to a skilled craftsman (or craftsperson). The term typically refers to breads made by an individual worker using skill and care, but this term does not have a Standard of Identity. Does that matter? Yes and no. It means that any bread out there could be labeled as “Artisan” bread, but consumers would not accept 88 cent loaves of bread as being “Artisan” breads. When terms aren’t defined, they leave room for the manufacturers to be a little sneakier.

Artesian: Artesian (ar tee zhan) is different from artisan (ar ti zan) and does not refer to bread products. It is defined as water from a well through which water flows without the need for pumping. Is this another one of those terms that sounds fancy but means nothing? No. The term artesian is listed under the Standards of Identity for water and water cannot be labeled as Artesian unless it really is Artesian. Does this make it any better than other waters? Not at all, it merely describes a process by which the water is extracted.


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