Beware of 'natural' food fraud

Sunday, June 03, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: natural foods, labeling, fraud

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(NaturalNews) These days, what with so-called pomegranate drink products containing less than 1 percent actual pomegranate juice and so on, it has become more than necessary to scrutinize the packaging and labeling of so-called "natural" foods and beverages because often they contain misleading information about the actual product.

It could be as simple as muffins in supermarkets that are supposed to contain blueberries, but only actually contain "blue dots" of processed corn syrup with artificial flavorings, or as complex as honey, most of which is sold in supermarkets as being "pure" (i.e. 100 percent honey) but which is comprised of about 10 percent honey and 90 percent high fructose corn syrup.

Either way, there is a natural food fraud being committed on the consumer, so if you're concerned about what you eat - and if you're reading NaturalNews on a regular basis, you are concerned - you need to be aware of this deception so you can make better decisions about what you put into your body.

Consider Kellogg's Kashi "natural" cereals. The company is currently facing a consumer backlash because its popular brand isn't living up to its "natural" billing.

"The controversy went viral a week ago after a Rhode Island grocer tacked a note to one of his store shelves, telling customers he wouldn't sell the cereal because he found out the brand used genetically engineered, non-organic ingredients," said USA Today, in a recent report about the scandal.

Photos of the grocer's note were spread across Facebook and food blogs as angry consumers vented about being duped.

Tortured explanations, self-made definitions

Of course, the Kashi folks say there's nothing wrong with how they're advertising their product, but the explanation is tortured and tenuous, at best - sort of like former President Clinton's onetime description of what the word "is" is.

"The FDA has chosen not to regulate the term 'natural'," says general manager David DeSouza. His company, therefore, has chosen to define the term, and Kashi defines "natural" as "food that's minimally processed, made with no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners."

Fine, Mr. DeSouza. Now define "minimally."

Many consumers aren't buying that painful explanation. They feel - and we believe rightly so - that they were tricked into believing the product was free from genetically modified ingredients because that was the tone of Kellogg's advertising regarding the product's labeling of "natural."

The same thing is happening with food that is supposed to be "100 percent organic."

Enter pomegranate juice once again.

"Now you'd think that in pomegranate tea, the main substance would be Pomegranate, right? But when reading the ingredients, water was in the first place (expected), sugar in second (somewhat expected) and then grape juice in third and Pomegranate in fourth," said Julissa Clay in a column for Blue Heron Health News, an online journal. "So there was more grape juice in the pomegranate tea than pomegranate."

Sound familiar?

Labeling only has to be a little accurate

"The only way to really know for sure what kind of juice you're drinking, is if you get the fruit yourself and juice it. That way you also know the quality of the fruits since of course the worst quality fruits are used for juices while the best are sold as whole foods," Clay writes.

The problem is, as executives like DeSouza are so quick to exploit, is that the law doesn't provide for more accurate labeling of food, and especially so-called "natural" or "organic" foods. Moreover, the problem isn't new.

A 2002 survey by the National Consumers League (NCL) found that most people - 76 percent - believed that foods with "natural" on the label contain at least 90 percent natural ingredients, while another 80 percent said they believe that natural foods are better for you.

But, as NCL President Linda Golodner pointed out, "[p]roducts with the 'natural' labeling are not required by law to contain only natural ingredients."

So how can tell for sure when food is "natural" or "organic?" Well, when you buy the actual product fresh - pomegranates, for instance - instead of prepackaged, you know for sure it's 100 percent what it is supposed to be.

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