05/29/2015 04:40 EDT | Updated 05/29/2016 05:59 EDT

"Hand-Crafted," "Farm Fresh" And Other Meaningless Food Marketing Claims

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Food companies and restaurants will do anything to get you to buy their products, including using bogus marketing claims. And by bogus, I mean "has no official meaning, but makes you think you're buying mom's home cooking when you're buying a piece of mass produced crap." It's a great marketing tool, and it works! Companies know that if you think their products are special in some way, you're way more likely to purchase them. Sneaky, right?

Here are the most popular food claims that are seen tricking people all over the place.

Artisanal: I think the word artisanal pretty much lost its luster after KFC and McDonalds started using it to describe some of their offerings.

Artisanal is supposed to essentially mean that the food was created in small batches, not in a factory. As a client of mine (who incidentally, produces real artisanal baked goods) says, "anything mass produced can't be artisanal!" She's right. So that Wendy's Artisanal Egg Sandwich? Not. Artisanal. Just a breakfast sandwich.

Hand-Crafted/Hand-Cut: This one always makes me laugh. You find it everywhere. Hand-crafted burgers. Hand-cut fries. Hand-crafted beer. Hand-crafted sandwiches. Wait, what?

I know what they're getting at when restaurants and companies use this phrase -- they want you to think that some poor soul is in the kitchen actually forming those burger patties, cutting those potatoes with an old kitchen knife and a cutting board, and reaching into that huge beer vat to test the hoppiness of your brew. Ha ha!! You know what? Even if someone is cutting their hand making your fries, it doesn't mean they taste better or are better for you. And really, think about it for a second. Do they have some incredible sandwich-making machine that's putting your "hand-crafted" ham and cheese together? I don't think so.

Farm Fresh: You know the restaurant wants you to think of the chef going out and sticking his hand under the hen to get her freshly-laid eggs just for your lovely, farm-fresh egg omelet. Perhaps in reality it's not as idyllic of a scenario, but where do you think eggs come from? And the word fresh? Well, that's open to interpretation, but no company or restaurant is going to advertise "rotten/old/crusty/from the dirty factory farm that sat on a truck for 4 days getting to our establishment" sort of food. Sorry for ruining your meal, but I speak the truth.

Natural: Oh, this one. By now I hope you know that the word "natural," although used widely by food companies, has zero regulation in terms of how its used to describe food. That means that any company can slap "natural" on its packaging with the hopes that people will buy the product because it sounds healthier. I still have people telling me that the food they're eating is healthy because it's "natural." Really? I've said it before: the mushrooms in my backyard are natural. Snake venom and nightshade and puffer fish are natural too. They're also deadly. Wake up!

No Artificial Flavours or Colours: This one is popping up a lot now, especially because fast food restaurants are getting rid of artificial flavours and colours in their food to please consumers. Panera has taken them out, now Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are following suit. As I say though, a pig with lipstick is still a pig, and even though these companies seem to be doing something wonderful, it's a total marketing ploy. Do you think for one second that 1. the food is any healthier without artificial flavours and colours and 2. these companies would even think to do this if they didn't think it would spike profits? Panera didn't have a conflict of conscience over its ingredients, trust me. They are trying to appeal to the public's fear of anything "fake" to sell more product.

Sugar-Free: I recently gave a talk about diabetes, and I used a sugar-free turnover as a prop to prove that sugar-free doesn't mean healthy. Sugar is a villain now, but a 5lb chunk of pastry that's "sugar-free" is still a piece of crap. The quality of a food is not improved by taking out the sugar. Want something sweet? Have the real thing and get over it. Just don't eat the entire package. Quality matters!


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