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Natural Foods 7/7/14

The term "natural" has become a big buzzword on processed food packaging. But Consumer Reports ShopSmart says, be aware -- it doesn't always mean what you think.

"The Food and Drug Administration doesn't adequately define what 'natural' means, so a manufacturer can make the claim even when a product contains artificial ingredients."

Which 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 - the highly processed sweetener - as the first ingredient. Crystal Light Natural Lemonade sounds wholesome, but it contains things like maltodextrin, artificial coloring agents and BHA, a synthetic preservative.

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. But 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. 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."

Good advice to help you shop smarter. Consumers Union, the advocacy wing of Consumer Reports, plans to call for a ban on the use of the word "natural," on food packaging. Instead it recommends looking for foods that are labeled "organic" -a term that is well regulated.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright ©2014 Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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