Recently, consumers have grown more health-conscious, searching for "organic" and "natural" product labels to support their diets and lifestyles.
However, shoppers' high-minded and well-intentioned attempts may be stymied by inaccurate labeling, misleading wordplay and lax federal regulations. The United States Department of Agriculture classifies "natural" foods as minimally processed foods with zero additives. However, the website Greener Ideal points out that nowhere on the website is there a list of banned ingredients.
Furthermore, the current definition is vague and open to interpretation in that it allows the same pesticides and chemicals to be used on "natural" foods as those deemed "normal." While "organic" labels are subject to more stringent requirements and inspections, the website notes they're still eight times as likely to be recalled due to contamination.
"The best policy for health-conscious consumers trying to decipher the diplomatic dribble of companies and government agencies is to research thoroughly," Greener Ideal suggests. "Research the pesticides used in foods, and which foods require the least amount. Pay attention to the shelf life, smells, residues, and textures of food products."
Despite potentially deceitful labeling, consumer confidence in supermarkets remains high. According to the Food Marketing Institute, 85 percent of consumers said they were "completely" or "mostly confident" in supermarkets in 2010.