Maple Leaf has been misleading consumers about their "all natural" products. They state that their product is all natural and free from any additives or preservatives. However their product contains cultured celery seed extract, which is a source of nitrates and nitrites – preserving agents linked to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
In Canada, foods cannot be labeled “natural” if they contain nitrates or nitrites, which mean that cured products cannot be called natural. So how is it that they can put cultured celery seed extract in their meat and still call it natural? Well if companies use naturally sourced ingredients, such as cultured celery extract, they are allowed to label them as being made with “natural ingredients,” even if the product contains nitrates or nitrites. So, they use misleading advertising....shocker!!
So if this cultured celery seed extract is naturally occurring, why should we avoid eating it? Nitrates are found naturally in vegetables, the presence of vitamins prevents their transformation into potentially risky nitrites. Research shows that eating vegetables guards against disease. The same is not true for nitrates and nitrites used as preservatives in meat, regardless of whether they are labeled as “naturally occurring".
I have to say I am not surprised or shocked that we were yet again mislead by advertising or food companies and their labels. Labels have and will continue to be misleading. It is certainly on ongoing controversy that will never end. I think the best thing we can do as consumers is to not only read labels but also to inform ourselves of the listed ingredients with a little time and research. With it being 2012, and internet access in basically every house in North America, it would take just a few minutes to Google the list. Better yet, take out your phone while you’re at the market. Yes, if you have to Google every ingredient in your whole grocery cart it would get overwhelming. However, since I started doing this myself I now recognize names of preservatives and additives as well as many other ingredients that have names I still cannot even pronounce.
One lady interviewed by CBC (Here is a link to that interview) commented, after being told about the cultured celery seed extract being a nitrate, "Now what do I give my son for lunch?" Even if it were possible to produce processed meats without nitrites or nitrates, they still contain high amounts of fat and sodium and nutritionists say they should be consumed in moderation.
We don't see the many options that we have in front of us. We are much better off sticking a chicken in the oven and cutting it up for sandwich meat. The food industry is in charge and their advertisements for prepackaged and fast foods saturate the airwaves, newspapers and magazines. Colorfully packaged single-person servings make processed foods appealing. The truth is that it would cost less to make our own sandwich meat. Americanownews.com published an article stating that "at the deli counter in your local supermarket, it's going to cost about $10 to $12 per pound to buy high-quality roast beef or turkey." They also said "you can make it at home for less than half the cost and it will actually be better for you?"
If you find a label with a misleading health claim, you can ask the CFIA to investigate by calling 1-800-442-2342 or contacting the agency through its website.