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Monday, August 9, 2010

What Do The Buzz Words on Packages Really Mean?

By: Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Science Agent

Many of the packages that line the grocery store are labeled with buzz words that are intended to entice us to buy the products. While many of us may be familiar with terms such as “low fat”, “cholesterol free” and “low sodium”, other terms like “natural”, “no hormones” and “free range” may be a bit more confusing. So what do some of these terms mean? Here is a quick look at several definitions you may have questions about.

Made with Real Fruit or Contains Real Fruit Juice- There is no law that requires how much real fruit that has to be included in a food with this claim. The product could contain just one grape or one drop of orange juice to be accurate. A quick look at the ingredients list will show you what you need to know. Each ingredient present in a food product must be listed in descending order of predominance by weight. When high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar are listed as the first ingredients, you know that the “real fruit” content of the product isn't significant.

Natural- The term natural does not have a formal definition when applied to foods and is used broadly on a variety of foods. According to the Food Marketing Institute, the label refers to foods that are minimally processed and free of synthetic preservatives; artificial sweeteners and colors, flavors, and other artificial additives; growth hormones; antibiotics; hydrogenated oils; stabilizers; and emulsifiers. FDA only restricts the use of the term on products that contain added color, synthetic substances and flavors.

No hormones (pork or poultry)-Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim “no hormones added” cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”

No hormones (beef)-The term “no hormones administered” may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the USDA by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals.

Free range or free roaming - Producers must demonstrate to the USDA that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

100% organic – Food must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids. The USDA seal may appear on the packaging.

Organic – A product with this label must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form. The USDA seal may appear on the packaging.

Made with organic ingredients – To carry this term, a product must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. The USDA seal cannot be used anywhere on the package.

For more information on labeling terms, check out the following websites:

Organic labeling-
What the Label Means-
Meat and Poultry Labeling terms


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