Consumer Report: The Scoop on Food Labels

You may be tempted to toss things in your shopping cart, such as a butter blend that “helps block cholesterol,” candy and soda touting antioxidants, and plenty of foods that say they’re “natural.” But Consumer Reports ShopSmart says not so fast.

Natural may sound good, but when it comes to snacks and cereal, there’s no standard definition. The Kix box says it contains “all natural corn,” but the company admits that it may contain genetically modified corn and sugar. General Mills, which makes Kix, says if you want to avoid genetically modified food, look for their products that are labeled certified organic.

Smart Balance makes the claim that its Butter Blend helps block cholesterol because it has added plant sterols. But you’d have to eat a minimum of 13 tablespoons every day to potentially lower your risk of heart disease. That much Smart Balance has 1,300 calories. Consumer Reports contacted the manufacturers of Smart Balance about their claim that added plant sterols help block cholesterol. The company did not respond to questions.

And what about 7UP Cherry soda and Raisinets that tout antioxidants? Those treats also serve up a hefty seven to nine teaspoons of sugar in a serving.

One of the most misleading labels is not on processed food. It’s on chicken. To earn the “free range” label, producers can give chickens access to open air for as little as five minutes a day and still meet the requirement.

There are some labels that Consumer Reports says are worth their salt—for instance, “USDA Organic” means 95 percent of the ingredients were produced without synthetic fertilizers and most industrial pesticides.

And on meat and poultry, the claim “Raised without antibiotics” means the animal should never have been given antibiotics.


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