Consumer Reports examines how to properly read food claims on labels

Consumer Reports shows you how to effectively read food claims on product labels.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
It's a problem some health-conscious shoppers have at the supermarket - should you get low fat or low salt? 7 On Your Side has teamed up exclusively with Consumer Reports to break down what it all means.

You read labels at the supermarket looking for healthy options, but sometimes you're stumped by similar claims. Should you get "reduced sodium" pasta sauce? Or the one labeled "low sodium?" "Low-fat?" or "light?" Consumer Reports ShopSmart has a guide to some labeling buzzwords that can really trip you up.

"Scanning labels can be daunting, but there are some simple things you can do, like looking for products labeled "low" instead of "reduced." "Low" has a definite meaning," said Sue Perry, Consumer Reports ShopSmart.

For example, "low sodium" means a food can't contain more than 140 milligrams of sodium, per serving. That's much clearer than something labeled "reduced sodium," which only means it has less sodium than the original product.

In fact, the reduced sodium version of this chicken broth still has a hefty 560 milligrams.
The same is true for "light" versus "low fat." "Light" only means less than the original. "Low fat" means it must have three grams of fat or less, per serving. How about "multi grain" or "whole grain?"

"Multiple grains aren't a bad thing, but they can still be processed, so whole grains are a better choice," said Amy Keating, Consumer Reports nutritionist.

When it says "no sugar added," that only means sugar wasn't added in the processing. It doesn't mean it's not in there. And what's the skinny on foods that contain hydrogenated versus partially-hydrogenated oils? Consumer Reports nutrition experts say: stay away from both. Neither is heart healthy.

Rather than hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils, Consumer Reports says look for olive and canola oils on ingredient lists. They are better for your heart.

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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