Thursday, February 27, 2014

Do you read the list of ingredients?

Do you read the list of ingredients before purchasing?
What's our criteria for purchases?
This month's survey asked the question, "What's your very first consideration when choosing a product to buy?" Most of us factor in many things when shopping, but I was interested in the first thing we look at, the thing which determines whether we give an item a second thought or simply leave it on the market shelf.

Let's look at the results:

What's your criteria for purchases?

What's your criteria for purchases?

What's your criteria for purchases?

It turns out that we read labels and the list of ingredients is our first "filter" when choosing products. That comes before price, packaging, or locality. We want to know what's in a product.

I personally find the results exciting. There was a time when people said that they'd love to buy greener products but they were too expensive. Words like "organic", "non-toxic", etc., were associated with higher prices and were, therefore, prohibitive. Now, people see the value of safe, Eco-friendly ingredients.

Understanding the list, however, is often difficult.

To help us navigate through the maze of information, here are some tips:

  • If the list is long and involved, chances are it contains less-than-desirable items.
  • Can you pronounce the items listed? If you need an advanced degree in chemistry to figure them out, leave the product on the shelf.
  • Words such as "natural" and "fragrance" are not regulated and can mean anything.
  • "Antibacterial" typically means the product contains triclosan, a dangerous chemical which is toxic to aquatic bacteria and inhibits photosynthesis in diatom algae. It has also been shown to alter hormone regulation in animals. Look for it in foods, clothing, kitchen tools, and body care products ... and avoid it!
  • Do you read the list of ingredients?
    Ingredients matter!
  • Does a cleaning solution contain the word "organic"? Only cleaning products bearing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Certified Organic” logo are legally bound to comply with that claim.
  • Be aware of what's NOT on the label. It is not mandatory for manufacturers to disclose contaminants. Therefore, look for words like "BPA-free" and "pesticide-free" to ensure that a contaminate is not present.
  • Here's a marketing trick to be aware of. The ingredients are organized in descending order. In other words, the highest concentrations come first. So, if all the healthy stuff is listed at the end, it is present in very small amounts and is, most likely, included to make you think the product is wholesome when it's not.
  • Watch out for healthy-sounding phrases like "sodium nitrite" and "yeast extract". They are NOT good ingredients. Sodium nitrite is associated with brain tumors and yeast extract is another name for monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • When in doubt, check it out. Use sites like the Environmental Working Group database to check on the safety of ingredients ... or search the Internet for information.

There are many factors to consider when making a purchase. Checking the list of ingredients is one way to ensure that the products we buy are safe ... for us and the planet.

Sneak Peek: What kind of shampoo do you use? On Monday I'll tell you about the hair products that I'm using.

Some images courtesy of Ambro /