What's in a food label?
Plus, what do we know about mammograms and breast cancer?
Hello Health Deskers! We hope you’re having a great summer. After a short hiatus, we’re back in action and delivering on-demand explainers for you on everything from food labels to mammograms. Check our explainers out below to see what your fellow newsrooms and fact-checkers around the world have been asking us over the last few weeks.
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Our look-ahead today is an excerpt originally published in Scientific American by our program manager and health misinformation researcher Jenna Sherman. Take a look and click the link below to read Jenna’s full op-ed on how misinformation about abortion spreads in online spaces.
“The Center for Countering Digital Hate reports that from January 2020 to September 2021, Facebook alone accepted between $115,400 and $140,667 for 92 ads promoting “abortion pill reversal”—the use of progesterone to reverse a medication abortion in its early stages. This procedure is unproven and unethical, and was stopped in clinical trials because it caused dangerous hemorrhaging. The center’s report also found that a whopping 83 percent of searches for abortion carried an ad for “abortion reversal,” meaning that the vast majority of Google searches on abortion when the study was conducted surfaced disinformation that was disguised as neutral and helpful.”
And now: you asked, we answered. Here’s the latest on what our health experts are unpacking.
What is health-washing, and what does the label “real food” mean to consumers?
Food labels can help consumers make purchases based on health, the environment, and social responsibility. However, these labels can be taken advantage of by marketers who practice “health-washing:” a tactic that conveys a false impression of health for the benefit of bigger profit. Well-intended consumers may purchase a product thinking it is healthier without knowing whether the health claim is actually true. Without an official definition of “real food,” marketers can loosely use the label “real food” as they want to and are not required to provide research to support the claim. It can mean anything, and a marketer’s use of “real food” may differ from a consumer’s interpretation.
“Consumers might assume if a product comes from “whole foods,” it’s free of food additives, or that it contains very little processed ingredients. However, a product with this label can even be identical to a product without it, yet be sold at a high price, misleading consumers to think there is a difference.”
Can mammograms cause breast cancer?
Mammogram machines tend to be highly regulated in nations with strong national health agencies and regulatory bodies. The very small amount of radiation used during mammograms is equal to roughly 2 - 6 months of what is known as background radiation for the average person. Background radiation is radiation that is naturally present in the environment at a particular pace that is not due to unnatural radiation sources.
“The benefits of mammograms nearly always outweigh the potential harms that come from radiation exposure. It should be noted that there has never been a case of breast cancer that has been proven to have been caused by mammograms.”
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