Food labels that can lead you astray

Food labels that can lead you astray
BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Organic. Fresh. Natural. Words that seem healthful enough, but you would surprised some labels on our foods are not as self explanatory as you think. For Kara Souza, a mother of two, shopping for groceries can get overwhelming sometimes.

"Labels are very confusing. There's so many things you have to watch out for. The sugars and the fats, salt, the artificial everything," Souza said.

Food labels are supposed to help , but it seems like you need to carry a glossary to find out what every sticker and seal means. Consumer Reports flagged a few easy to spot, well defined labels.

The "USDA Organic" label can show up on a range of things from beef to cereal and means at least 95 percent of the products ingredients are certified organic. These products are coming from animals raised without antibiotics.

The "Animal Welfare Approved" sticker is also a pretty straight forward label. It means any animal used in the product was given access to pasture. The "AWA" label applies to many family farms. While these labels may be helpful, others can be misleading.

"It's hard as a consumer to know what's out there, what's right and not feel like you are being tricked or lied to," Souza said.

In order for a product to receive the American Heart Association "healthy heart checkmark" the food must be low in saturated fat or have a set percentage of whole grain ingredients. While some orange juice may make those requirements, KBOI found an 8 ounce glass also has the same amount of sugar as many regular sized candy bars.

"It's not necessarily heart healthy if you are full of sugar. It should be the spectrum of heart healthy, not just one aspect of the label," Souza said when she compared the two.

Poultry labels can get muddy too. There are two claims that may not mean what you think.The first is the word "fresh." Chicken can be considered "fresh" as long as its temperature doesn't dip below 26 degrees. That's 6 degrees below the freezing point for water, but the poultry still can be labeled "fresh."

"Free range" is also debatable. It means producers let chickens have access to open air for an unspecified amount of time each day, but that could be as little as five minutes. Walking around the grocery store the word "natural" appears on a slew of products. It shows up a lot especially snack foods. Unless the word is labeled on meat or poultry, the word has no standard definition, which means it's on all sorts of processed foods.

There's actually currently a lawsuit pending against Pepperidge Farms in Colorado because of the claim on goldfish crackers. The company stands by its labeling.

"I have goldfish in my pantry because I thought it was the healthier choice, and if it's not I've wasted all that time in research," Souza said.

Bottom line, do your research and be your own advocate. If you're interested in becoming a label sleuth and looking for more information on food, personal care products or household cleaners, go to www.greenerchoices.org