Update: January 1, 2015 — This book is no longer in print and author’s work is no longer available.

Making the right choice at the grocery store can be a tough thing these days. Between making sense of what is healthy, and what the different ingredients, nutrient and package claims mean, the consumer finds themselves in a daunting dilemma today when it comes to knowing what to eat.

The good news, however, is that as confusing as eating has become today, and despite all the misinformation and misleading claims we seem to be surrounded by, we do have tools to educate and empower us. One of these tools is the newly released book Read It With a Grain of Salt – The Truth About Canadian Food Labels From An Industry Insider, by Allison Jorgens. Thanks to years of first hand experience, Allison helps consumers unravel the mysteries and learn about industry regulations, guidelines, and how to make sense of food labels. Putting it all together into her book, in a practical and easy to understand way, Allison empowers each of us to be better informed and make the best choices for ourselves when it comes to any packaged processed foods we may pick.

With the help of this book we can educate ourselves about how the food industry works when it comes to labels, ingredients and nutrition facts, to make the best choices for our health. And Allison’s book couldn’t be more timely and valuable for our society today given our current health and weight problems that are so greatly tied to the dietary choices we are making. Thus in this review, I will share with you more about this book and how it can help you and your family become empowered when it comes to your food choices, and in turn your health.

About the Author

Read It With a Grain of Salt is written by Allison Jorgens and was published May 2012.

Allison is a home economist holding a degree in nutritional sciences. She has been working as a food label specialist for grocers and food manufactures in Canada for nearly a decade. Over the past ten years, Allison has reviewed thousands of food labels for many of Canada’s leading private-label grocery brands, large and small manufacturers, distributors, and a variety of importers. Thanks to this wide-ranging experience in regulatory-compliance label reviews, her knowledge is unique, and her perspective all the more shocking. As a concerned parent and advocate of leading a healthful lifestyle, Allison recommends that all responsible consumers empower themselves with the knowledge needed to make more healthful and informed choices.

About the Book

Read It With a Grain of Salt is just under 200 pages, and a relatively quick, flowing read. It is very well organized, clearly written and puts to use practical tools to help the consumer easily understand and apply the information. The book contains 18 chapters divided among 3 parts.

Here is a general breakdown of the main topics covered in each part:

Part 1: The Prepackaged Processed Food Industry

This part explores the role of the government, governing agencies and food companies when it comes to the food labels on products. As well, it gives us an explanation of what exactly constitutes processed food.

Knowledge is the key to success. How can you make a change when you don’t understand the facts?

Allison Jorgens, Read It With a Grain of Salt

Part 2: An Insider’s Perspective on How to Read Labels

This is the biggest section in the book, consisting of most of the chapters and it includes an explanation of what is mandatory on a Canadian food label, and what is optional. A thorough look at things like ingredients, nutrition facts, claims and romance text is explained, as well as the top ways food labels can mislead you. The reader will learn what words like “natural”, “real”, or “healthy” imply, the difference between standardized foods versus impostor foods, hidden ingredients, the 24 class name ingredients and how to understand them, component ingredients, ingredients to avoid, and how to understand country of origin claims. This section also has a thorough analysis of a nutrition facts label, and how to make sense of the content and its meaning. It also provides an analysis of package claims and images explaining how the industry bends the rules on using these to their advantage.

The unfortunate reality is that you could be eating preservatives and artificial flavours and not even know it.

Allison Jorgens, Read It With a Grain of Salt

Part 3: How To Effectively Read Prepackaged Processed Food Labels

This section includes one chapter that provides a summary of the 5 steps to reading food labels, with a focus on the product name, ingredient list, and nutrition facts.

Ultimately, you are in charge of which foods you decide to buy and eat.

Allison Jorgens, Read It With a Grain of Salt

Personal Commentary

Being someone who is passionate about health and nutrition, this was a very enjoyable book for me to read. Although the book focuses on the Canadian food system and labeling rules, I believe it can still be a beneficial read for those who reside in other countries like the US. The book fulfills its promise flawlessly of sharing an insider’s perspective as to how the food label industry works in Canada, with even some reference to the US and other countries. It is outstanding at providing us as consumers, a window into seeing and understanding how our food is labelled, marketed and what we are *really* getting in the different food packages.

As the author shares, the goal of this book is to “educate and empower you to read food labels effectively, and avoid falling victim to manipulative marketing”. I found Allison indeed provides a super valuable resource for teaching each one of us how to understand the information and misinformation on prepackaged processed food. Putting years of research and experience into one compact book, she really helps us make sense of what is regulated, what isn’t, while exposing the grey areas that allow for various levels of manipulation.

I especially enjoyed reading about how claims are made which deal with selective highlighting that so often steer people in the wrong direction or give them a false idea about a food product. Equally so, it was enlightening to read about the hidden ingredients and how despite all the labeling present, we may still be missing out on knowing fully what is in our food. I also found the book to be highly practical, which is always a must for me when rating a resource to be of good value. Practical additions include the 5 tips to being most effective at reading and understanding ingredient lists, 25 common ingredient names for sugar and 25 common ingredient names for preservatives. Additionally, regularly occurring sections like “empower yourself”, “did you know” and “quick tip” help us as consumers put what she shares into practice in our lives, in the easiest of ways.

Regardless of our nutrition knowledge to date, there is no doubt that one can get overwhelmed by all of the things to keep in mind in order to make the best food choices. I know that although I was aware of a lot of what Allison shared, half way through the book I could not help but be so grateful that I do not rely on processed food. I can imagine it can take hours to do a simple grocery trip in order to walk away with the best health choices when relying on prepackaged processed food! And although we each have free will as to what we choose, it is just not fair in my opinion for us as consumers to have to decipher the plethora of information the industry uses to present their product in the best light, at the cost of our health. This is again all the more reason to choose natural, wholesome foods, or foods with one wholesome ingredient only. And while I know anyone who reads this book will be greatly empowered by the information shared, I hope more than anything it inspires them to choose the most natural, wholesome foods first and foremost.


In conclusion, it was a pleasure to read this book and now share it with you the reader as a truly outstanding source of information and value to help in your life. It is a great educational tool that I would recommend for every Canadian family specifically, to read and enrich their lives when it comes to making the best packaged processed food choices.