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    Archive for the ‘all-natural’ Category

    In The News: Empty Promises

    flnatcheetosThis month’s Food Product Design trade magazine shares consumer, media, and market research giant Mintel Solutions’s 2008 statistics on product development in the food industry.

    Much to my initial surprise, “during 2008, ‘natural’ was the most-frequent claim on new foods and beverages.  [In the United States,] one-third [of products sported] the claim, up 16% from 2007.”

    I scratched my head pondered over this factoid for a few minutes.  Why would food companies choose “natural” as a selling point?  Why not brag about Omega-3 fortification or whole grain inclusion?

    Then, it hit me.

    There is no legal definition for “natural.”  The Food & Drug Administration has not defined what products can — and can’t — use that term in their advertising.

    Much to food companies’ liking, consumers associate “natural” with healthy, low in calories, and nutritious.  While that is certainly true if you’re talking about pears or tomatoes, it doesn’t apply to other “100% natural” products like high fructose corn syrup, 7Up, and Cheetos white cheddar puffs.

    This phenomenon is not contained within the 50 states.  “On a global scale, ‘natural’ claims appeared on almost one in four (23%) new products.”

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    You Ask, I Answer: Stoneground Wheat

    I have seen a few breads labeled as “100% stoneground wheat.”

    Does that have any nutritional implications?

    Is it similar to a whole wheat bread?

    — Mariana (last name withheld)
    (city withheld), NJ

    The literal way to produce stoneground flour is to grind it solely in stone mills (rather than conventional roller mills.)

    Most conventional breads sold at supermarkets (which I assume are the ones you are asking about), however, use the term as a healthy-sounding catchphrase in an attempt to confuse consumers who are looking for healthier breads.

    The main problem here is that the Food & Drug Administration has not drafted a legal definition of “stoneground.” It can basically mean whatever food companies want it to mean!

    This is very much akin to the lack of definition of the term “natural ingredients,” which permitted 7-Up to launch a “made with all natural ingredients” campaign a few years back.

    Most major bread companies can get away with labeling their breads as “stone ground” if the flour has gone through a stone mill just one time.

    This is all irelevant, though. White flour has the same nutritional profile regardless of the type of mill it is processed in.

    The most important thing to look for when purchasing bread is that the first ingredient is a WHOLE flour.

    Any word other than whole — such as “stoneground”, “unbleached”, or “enriched” — means the main ingredient is white flour with virtually no fiber.

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    Simply Said: "All Natural"

    Food products, much like books, are judged by their covers. Would it surprise you to know that many companies literally spend millions of dollars on teams that scrutinize precisely what images and words to display on a box of crackers?

    Certain health claims up a product’s chance of ending up in a consumer’s shopping cart. One of the most aggravating claims is “all-natural!” (what would the world of marketing be without exclamation marks?)

    Many people still attempt to justify junk food as being okay because, hey, the box says it’s “all-natural” (yeah, and the ad for a 20 square foot studio apartment in New York City describes it as “cozy and charming”).

    Truthfully, that means nothing. Sure, baby carrots and orange slices are “all natural” foods, but so are french fries, cheeseburgers, and brownies.

    Even the Cheetos shown in the photo accompanying this post are “naturally baked”. Huh? In an oven at high temperatures as opposed to what kind of baking that would be considered “artificial”?

    To demonstrate how nutritionally irrelevant this health claim is, all I can say is that poisonous mushrooms also natural. Sure, some render us dead, but they grow in nature.

    Please, do not fall into the hands of a slick advertiser trying to pry a few dollar bills from your wallet with vague health claims. A product can be all-natural and still be high in fat and sugars but low in fiber and nutrients.

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