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How to Read Food Labels: What Do Common Warnings Mean?

Anna Smith

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It’s difficult enough to get proper nutrition from the foods we eat. What’s even more cumbersome is avoiding harmful ingredients that can make their way into our foods. One way to know about potentially harmful ingredients is to read food labels. However, many of us don’t stop to think about what these labels really mean.

Allergy Warnings

Thanks to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), manufacturers are forced to disclose the presence of allergens in products. The most common allergens that must be disclosed by law include:

  • eggs
  • milk
  • peanuts
  • soy
  • wheat
  • tree nuts
  • shellfish
  • soy
  • fish

These warnings are very effective at preventing everything from minor to life-threatening reactions. Even if a product does not contain large amounts of an allergen, trace amounts are possible. This is especially true when products are made in the same facilities with allergen-containing foods. It is against the law to withhold such information on packaged food labels.

Proposition 65

Proposition 65, or “Prop 65,” was enacted by the State of California in 1986, as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. Voters passed the proposition in response to growing concern about chemicals entering the environment and drinking water supplies. The law sought to prevent companies from emitting large amounts of carcinogens into the drinking water.

Although the Proposition 65 label is scary, the warning can be misleading. The fact is that many products we buy that don’t have the label may also contain carcinogenic ingredients. Furthermore, companies are required to report the presence of these chemicals (which may be both natural and synthetic) in trace amounts.

Products and places with the Proposition 65 warning are usually no more toxic than similar products without the label. Overall, the proposition has helped protect consumers, and it has fostered accountability among companies regarding what’s contained in a product.

FDA Approval

FDA approval means a product has been tested in some way by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the absence of this label should not alarm you. In fact, there are healthy and safe products, such as vitamins and herbal supplements, that have not been approved. It’s also important to note that FDA approval does not necessarily guarantee safety. It’s necessary to do your own research and consult with a physician or nutritionist regarding products and their potential effect on your health.

Warning labels have their benefits for the general public. However, in this day and age, it’s the consumer’s responsibility to do further research to determine a product’s safety and effectiveness.

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Joint Health

Just How Much Damage Are You Doing to Your Body by Sitting in Front of a Computer All Day?

Anna Smith

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More people than ever earn their livings by sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen for eight hours. When they come home after a long day on the job, often the first thing that they do is get out their smartphones and sit for another few hours watching videos or catching up on personal business. Humans were not meant to be motionless for extended periods, and over time all that inactivity can actually kill you. Let’s take a look at what kind of damage can be done by all that screen time, and what you can do to counteract it.

What’s the Damage?

You’ve probably already noticed that after a long time in front of your laptop or phone that your limbs are stiff, your back hurts and your eyes feel grainy. A 2014 study shows that adults spend a whopping eleven hours a day on average in front of a screen. Being sedentary is terrible for your body and can bring on a host of ailments like chronic pain, heart problems, disrupted sleep, and even bone issues.

Developing Poor Habits

It’s bad enough to sit still for hours at a time, but it’s worse when it’s combined with terrible posture and a lousy diet. Many of us are guilty of chowing down on fast food at our office desks trying to catch up on work or demolishing a bag of chips while we play online games slouching on the sofa for hours on end. Careless habits mean that obesity, diabetes and heart disease are genuine possibilities, not to mention spine damage by twisting it in ways that nature didn’t intend.

What Can You Do?

The easiest way to avoid these problems is, of course, limiting your screen time. However, you can take steps to offset the sedentary life just by scheduling regular breaks. You should get up and move every hour, even if it’s only walking to the restroom and back. While sitting, know that good posture is important. You might consider investing in ergonomic chairs that encourage better posture. Break the habit of eating in front of the computer to lessen mindless snacking and improve food choices.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but not when it encourages deterioration of your mind and body. It’s important to make sure that you take care of your body to prevent health problems in the future. With a few mindful tweaks, you can enjoy your screen time without lasting ill effects.

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