Category Archives: label reading

General Mills settles suit over 100% Natural claims on Nature Valley Granola Bars

Earns General MillsHere at FoodFacts.com we often talk about the “halo effect” surrounding certain food products. Language used on certain food products is often designed to impart a certain image. The brand name Nature Valley, for instance, ascribes a wholesome stature to products bearing the name. And often you’ll find 100% natural claims on Nature Valley products.

The non-profit Center for Science in the Public acts as a sort of truth squad for food claims, outing many “good for you” labels and ads for the shameless distortions that they are.

Now, the center reports the settlement of a suit it brought against General Mills for calling Nature Valley granola bars and other products “100% Natural” even though they contained highly processed sweeteners. (Wait, you mean “high-fructose corn syrup” doesn’t just count as corn?) From it’s press release:

WASHINGTON—A settlement agreement announced today prevents General Mills from claiming that its Nature Valley granola bars, crispy squares, and trail mix bars are “100% Natural” if those products contain high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose corn syrup, dextrose monohydrate, maltodextrin, soy protein isolate, or several other artificially produced ingredients. The agreement, which is effective immediately and applies to labeling and marketing for 30 Nature Valley products, settles a 2012 lawsuit brought on behalf of consumers by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and two law firms.
CSPI privately raised its concern with General Mills over its “100% Natural” claims as early as 2005. The company began phasing out its use of high-fructose corn syrup in some products, but at the time of CSPI’s lawsuit was still using high-maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin. While those ingredients are derived from corn, they are produced by treating corn starch with acids, enzymes, or both before being refined into a substance that does not occur in nature.

The center notes that a bill introduced in Congress in 2013 “would prohibit the use of the word ‘natural’ on a food that includes any synthesized ingredient, or any ingredient that has undergone chemical changes such as corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose corn syrup, maltodextrin, chemically modified food starch, or alkalized cocoa.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that some Nature Valley packaging had apparently already been changed. It says a “spokeswoman for General Mills said the changes were made in 2012 and preceded the lawsuits, which she said the company fought because the suits sought damages. She said General Mills agreed to the settlement to avoid further litigation, and has no plans to change its current labels.”

The Journal also reports that lawsuits over “natural” labeling have been proliferating of late, with more than 100 filed in recent years.

Consumers have targeted PepsiCo Inc., Campbell Soup Co. , Ben & Jerry’s, Kashi, Skinnygirl and dozens of other food and drink brands.

Several companies have quietly removed “natural” claims from the juice, ice cream, potato chips and other foods they make. Campbell eliminated the claim from Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and Pepsi got rid of the phrasing on its Naked juice bottle.

A commenter on The Wall Street Journal story writes:

The sad truth is that if you are buying something in a wrapper, box, can or any sealed container, it almost certainly is adulterated with either sugar, hydrogenated oil, preservatives, or all of these, not to mention excess salt, and “additives.”

Go to your friendly neighborhood chain food market and take a magnifying glass. Read the labels on “breakfast cereal”. Of the fifty brands there, chances are that all fifty contain added sugar/corn syrup, or concentrated fruit juice for sweetening. Do the same with “juices” and discover there MAY be ONE or TWO actual juices there, everything else is adulterated and soaked in corn syrup. Basically if it’s in a container, it’s semi junk or junk food.

None of this comes as a surprise to the FoodFacts.com community. And while it is true that many manufacturers have removed natural claims from their labels, well … let’s just say it remains a good idea to read ingredient lists consistently. Remember, every manufacture can change ingredients without notification. A while back, Hunt’s promoted the removal of high-fructose corn syrup from its ketchup. Shortly thereafter, it reverted to using high-fructose corn syrup because they claimed consumers preferred the original recipe. They do still have a version of their ketchup without HFCS. But the whole chain of events occurred very quietly.

Be a consistent label reader who isn’t influence by packaging claims and you’ll naturally avoid unnatural ingredients!

http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/11/nature-valley-granola-bars-suit

10 ways food labels mislead consumers

Day after day we learn more about how misleading food labels continue to dupe consumers with keywords and bold statements that feed into people’s dietary needs and weight loss goals. This doesn’t mean all food labels are lying because plenty of products are “fat free” or made with “real fruit,” but what about the other nutritional facts or ingredients?

Foodfacts.com observes that, unfortunately, the FDA does not regulate all food labels and cannot keep food manufacturers from using clever wording to avoid a potential lawsuit. What you can do is read the nutritional facts and ingredients list to find the truth behind the fancy wording and manipulative marketing. Here are 10 misleading food labels to look out for:

* “Zero grams trans fat”
Since trans fat have become the ultimate no-no in today’s diet, many companies have cut trans fat from their products. However, it has led way to a manipulative marketing move to promote 0 grams of trans fat, without indicating the product’s level of saturated and total fat. Food labels know people are looking for the label that says “0 grams trans fat,” but they may skip over the saturated and total fat amount, which is just as important.

* “All natural”
The “all natural” stamp is one of the most abused and misleading food labels used by food manufacturers today. Many of these so-called “all natural” products use citric acid, high-fructose corn syrup and other unnatural additives, but still get to bear that positive label. Always check the ingredients list to know exactly what’s in your food.

* “Whole grains”
Chances are you’ve seen the label, “Made with Whole Grains,” pop up on bread, crackers or rice products now more than ever. The reality is that many of these whole grain products are actually made with refined wheat flour and maybe a small percentage of whole grains. In order to check the validity of the whole grains label, check out the listed ingredients. Unless “whole grains” is one of the first ingredients on the list or if you see “enriched wheat flour,” it’s likely that your product contains a small percentage of whole grains.

* “Fiber”
Food products that contain fiber has become a growing trend in the food industry because consumers are looking for foods that are going to keep them fuller for longer, help regulate their digestive systems and lower their blood sugar. Shoppers might see their favorite cereal bar or yogurt is labeled “a good source of fiber,” but they won’t see where the fiber comes from listed anywhere. Many of the products you find with the label “contains fiber” actually contain isolated fibers, like inulin, maltodextrin, pectin, gum and other purified powders that are added to boost the not-so-fibrous foods.

* “Light”
When a food label says “light” as in “extra light olive oil,” consumers are misled to think that a product is light in fat or the fat content has been cut in half. Unless the product says reduced fat, “light” is generally referring to a lighter color of the original product, such as light-colored olive oil.

* “Heart healthy”
Many of today’s foods claim to be “heart healthy,” but don’t have FDA approval or scientific evidence to support such bold claims. These types of “heart healthy” labels mislead consumers into thinking they will improve their heart health by eating this particular food. Considering that heart disease is the number one killer in America, this food label is dangerous to promote if it’s not true.

* “Low fat”
The label “low fat” can be very misleading to consumers because, while it may be low in fat, it may also be loaded with sugar or sodium that won’t be highlighted. In addition, manufacturers are playing into people’s awareness of fats and efforts to lower their fat intake by advertising exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t be fooled by a “low fat” food label without examining the rest of the nutrition facts, and making sure that the product is well-balanced and healthy in its other areas.

* “Low sugar”
Just like “low fat” indicators, “low sugar” food labels are misleading for consumers because it plays up one nutritional factor to downplay a not-so-healthy factor, such as a high amount of calories, sugars or fat. Manufacturers also get around saying “contains sugar” by saying “lightly sweetened” or “no sugar added,” but you have to look at how much sugar is in each serving to know for sure.

* “Free range”
The “free range” food label can be found on meat, dairy and eggs at your local grocery store, but this progressive way of farming is not always as it seems. What consumers may not know and won’t see on their “free range” foods is that the USDA regulations only apply to poultry. Therefore, “free range” beef, pork and other non-poultry animals were fed grass and allowed to live outdoors, but their products are not regulated by the USDA. Another misconception consumers have about “free range” is that these products are also organic. Unless it’s labeled free range AND organic, free range animals may be fed nonorganic fed that could contain animal byproducts and hormones.

* “Fresh”
The “fresh” food label can be very misleading to consumers, by making them think their chicken was killed the day before, or their “freshly squeezed” orange juice was prepared that day. The label “fresh” simply means that it was not frozen or is uncooked, but many of these products are allowed to be chilled, kept on ice or in modified atmospheres to keep them from spoiling.

Foodfacts.com does not endorse specific views about nutrition or exercise, but presents interesting news and information worth reading about. As always, consult a physician or nutrition professional before making any major changes to your diet. Be sure to SCORE your foods so that you’re empowered to make good food choices. The Food Facts Health Score is FREE to use with your free membership at Foodfacts.com.

Is “Natural Flavoring” Really Natural?

rock-candy
Foodfacts.com wants everyone to be aware of what the term “Natural Flavor” means on the side of a products label. We’ve all heard of products being labeled “artificially flavored” or “naturally flavored,” but ever wonder what exactly “natural flavor” means? Is it really natural? What is the difference? Well, the definition of “natural flavor” under the Code of Federal Regulations is: “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional” (21CFR101.22). Any other added flavor therefore is artificial. (For the record, any monosodium glutamate, or MSG, used to flavor food must be declared on the label as such). Both artificial and natural flavors are made by “flavorists” in a laboratory by blending either “natural” chemicals or “synthetic” chemicals to create flavorings. Gary Reineccius, a professor in the department of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota says “The distinction in flavorings–natural versus artificial–comes from the source of these identical chemicals and may be likened to saying that an apple sold in a gas station is artificial and one sold from a fruit stand is natural.” He also says, “Artificial flavorings are simpler in composition and potentially safer because only safety-tested components are utilized. Another difference between natural and artificial flavorings is cost. The search for “natural” sources of chemicals often requires that a manufacturer go to great lengths to obtain a given chemical…. Furthermore, the process is costly. This pure natural chemical is identical to the version made in an organic chemist’s laboratory, yet it is much more expensive than the synthetic alternative. Consumers pay a lot for natural flavorings. But these are in fact no better in quality, nor are they safer, than their cost-effective artificial counterparts.”

So what about organic foods? Foods certified by the National Organic Program (NOP) must be grown and processed using organic farming methods without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Organic livestock cannot be fed antibiotics or growth hormones. The term “organic” is not synonymous with “natural.” The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) defines “natural” as “a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural.” Most foods labeled natural are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and heath codes. Steffen Scheide, organic savory flavorist for an ingredients supplier says, “Minor ingredients, such as natural flavors, often cause some confusion with regard to NOP rules. Only ‘natural flavors,’ as defined in the CFR—not artificial or EU-Nature-Identical Flavors—can be considered in the development of organic foods.”

The NOP food labeling standards include a National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Substances. This list has a section on allowed non-synthetic substances, some with restrictions (205.605(a)) for products labeled “organic” or “made with organic ingredients.” Four categories of organic labels were approved by the USDA, based on the percentage of organic content: 100% Organic, Organic, Made with Organic Ingredients, and Less than 70% Organic. Natural flavors, then, can be considered NOP compliant as “organic” when used under the 95% rule (flavorings constitute 5% or less of total ingredients and meet that meet the appropriate requirements) if their organic counterparts are not available. “Made with organic ingredients” can be used on any product with at least 70% organically produced ingredients.”

According to the National List, under section 7CFR205.605(a)(9), non-agricultural, non-organic substances are allowed as ingredients that can be labeled as “organic” or “made with organic,” including “flavors, non-synthetic sources only, and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative.” Other non-synthetic ingredients allowed in this section include: acids such as microbially-produced citric acid, dairy cultures, certain enzymes and non-synthetic yeast that is not grown on petrochemical substrates and sulfite waste liquor.

So, it seems that “natural” might not be so natural and that even some organic foods might contain some of these “natural flavors.” There are still many grey areas for consumers and producers alike. Research is being done and attempts are being made to produce more organic flavorings, but the process is slow. We as consumers need to be more aware of what ingredients go into our foods and also take more initiative to encourage the government’s responsibility to regulate these ingredients and disclose the information to the public.

Article provided by: Phil Lampert