CONSUMER WATCH: Beware of misleading "natural" food labels - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

CONSUMER WATCH: Beware of misleading "natural" food labels

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(WTVM) -

Many of us are trying to eat better and get healthier, but some of the foods we are buying may not be as good as we think.

The term "natural" has become a big buzzword on processed food packaging. However, consumer reports ShopSmart says beware. It doesn't always mean what you think.

"The food and drug administration doesn't adequately define what 'natural' means," says Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D. "So a manufacturer can make the claim even when a product contains artificial ingredients."

This explains how foods like Kikkoman soy sauce can boast that it is naturally brewed, yet contain synthetic sodium benzoate, a preservative.

It also means Bosco Chocolate Syrup can brag that it's "all natural," but still list high fructose corn syrup, a highly processed sweetener, as the first ingredient.

Crystal Light Natural Lemonade sounds wholesome, but it contains things like maltodextrin, artificial coloring agents, and a synthetic preservative called BHA.

Even Whole Foods' own Doctor Snap Soda, which proudly calls itself all natural, also contains artificial caramel coloring, which consumer reports tests found can contain 4-mei, a possible carcinogen.

Still, Jody Rohlena of ShopSmart magazine says, there are ways to detect a misleading "natural" label. Watch out for wording like made with natural ingredients, naturally flavored, and naturally brewed. All are meaningless terms that can make food sound wholesome, even if it's not.

"And don't take labels at face value," says Rohlena. "You always want to look at the ingredients list. If it contains a bunch of things you can't pronounce, you probably want to do a little more homework."

Finally, the ingredient listed first is the main ingredient. So if an artificial ingredient is first or second on the back of a package, you may want to stay away from that food.

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