Watch the fine print on chicken labels! 1/12
(This article is adapted from the January 2012 ShopSmart magazine.)
If you’re cooking more meals at home, good for you. Convenience foods and restaurant meals are often loaded with sodium and can raise your blood pressure. That can put you at risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.
But if chicken is on your home menu, watch out! Even if you go light on the salt while you’re cooking, you might be getting a heavier dose of the stuff anyway. It turns out that those raw chickens at the supermarket might not be as unprocessed and low in sodium as they look.
Water, salt, and other ingredients are routinely added to raw poultry. Under current labeling rules, a package can be called “chicken breast” regardless of whether it’s 100 percent chicken breast or 60 percent chicken and 40 percent added solution, containing ingredients such as water, salt, and teriyaki (which can be high in sodium).
What’s even more shocking is that poultry products with added solutions can contain up to eight times as much sodium as raw, unprocessed chicken. Chicken products with added solution must list those extra ingredients on the label, but they can appear in small print.
Even the Department of Agriculture (USDA), which wrote the label rules, admits that the information in small print might not be obvious to consumers. In many cases, chicken with added ingredients can also be labeled “natural,” making the label even more confusing.
The USDA is working on a rule change, which would require poultry with added solutions to list extra ingredients in the same size and font as the product name. But for now, read labels carefully!
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