Thankfully we live in the age of the Internet, and I was able to ask a friend (who asked a friend) what this meant.
My friend directed me to Tesco's website, which lists products that are "free from" things like dairy and gluten. Ok, that kind of made sense, considering that people with allergies need to know that their food is allergen-free.
(But I was still confused as to why such a sign would be hanging above some squash, which contain...just squash.)
Later, I decided "do my research" and headed over to the Giant website. And that's where things got a little weird.
(Additionally I'd like to know the meaning of "other unnecessary ingredients.")
When I posted this meme on Facebook, many page followers, including Michael (below), commented on the obvious fear-based marketing tactics at work here:
"They are allowing the shopper to fill in the blanks based on their own irrational fears. Free from "GMO", free from " toxins", free from " butterfly urine", etc etc. Everyone wants to buy food that is free from something."
Another commenter, Ryan, noted the misleading nature of the "free from antibiotics" component of Giant's marketing strategy:
"The free from antibiotics and hormones is extremely misleading to consumers. It implies conventional protein contains both." (To that point, check this out.)
People have become so consumed with fear of what they eat that they would rather know what isn't in their food than what is. And companies like Giant (and Delmonte, among others) are taking advantage of that fear, and using it to help the public empty their wallets a little more quickly.
In her interview for the Science Moms film, Anastasia Bodnar said:
"So there are some organizations that are trying to scare people away from buying certain fruits and vegetables...that's crazy to me! So my advice for parents trying to make decisions? I would say focus on nutrition. If you see a package of food and it's affordable, and it's got reasonably good nutrients - you know, a good ratio of calories to protein to fat, that's what you should be buying! And preferably don't buy something with a label on it. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables if you can. But all of these worries about "does not contain this, does not contain that" does not make the food healthier."
In my opinion, a voice like Anastasia's is the one that Giant needs to hear.
[P.S. - Right after I took the photo at the top of this post, I asked a Giant employee where I could find boxed macaroni and cheese. She pointed me to an aisle, paused, and said: "If you want organic, it's back over here." I politely smiled, said, "no thanks," and went on my way.]