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Do those “all natural” peanut-butter fudge cookies really “lower your cholesterol?”Separating fact from fiction in the grocery aisles is no easy feat. In a recent survey by Nielsen, more than two-thirds of consumers around the world thought nutritional claims were either never or only sometimes trustworthy. Close to 60 per cent admitted to having a tough time deciphering labels altogether.
For your next food shopping trip, consider this rundown of potentially misleading claims found at a supermarket near you.
This claim’s tricky because there’s no legal definition for the term “natural” on food labels. On its website, the FDA says, “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added colour, artificial flavours, or synthetic substances.”
Still, consumers can fight back. For example, last month snack giant Frito-Lay was slapped with a class-action law suit claiming its Tostitos brand chips falsely claim to be “all natural” when the ingredients include genetically modified seeds for corn and vegetable oil.
“Low fat” or “Less fat”
Beware that “less fat” is not necessarily synonymous with “more nutritious,” even though food makers would like us to believe so. For example, a box of “lite” ice cream may have 50 per cent “less fat” than its original version, but it may still contain more fat than you’d want to consume in a day. Calorically it may not be that much different, either, as food makers will often boost sugar levels in the product to make up for the reduction in fat. For example, the Nabisco’s Honey Graham Crackers contain 130 calories and 3 grams of fat. It’s “low fat” version has 2 grams of fat, but actually more calories (140).
And FYI: Recent research by the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University has found that low-fat labels on snacks entice people to eat up to 50 per cent more than those who received the same foods without low-fat claims.
Next up? “Vanilla-flavored.”
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