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'Organic' Labels Confuse, Mislead Many U.S. Consumers

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'Organic' Labels Confuse, Mislead Many U.S. Consumers

Food labeling in the U.S. can confuse or even mislead consumers. Terms such as "organic" often lead shoppers to believe that the products they're purchasing are healthier, even if these labels are placed on high-calorie snack foods.

When food products feature organic labeling, it simply means they were produced and processed under U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, not that they're health foods. A product containing 70 percent or less organic ingredients is unable to use the USDA's seal of approval or the phrase itself.

"It's important that consumers do not confuse the word organic with other health buzzwords such as 'free range,' 'all-natural,' or 'hormone free.' The USDA says only foods that are grown and processed according to their standards can be labeled as organic," said Angela Paymard, chairwoman of food safety software firm N2N Global. "Organically grown food has to meet [the] same quality and safety standards as conventionally grown food."

Recently, media outlets have raised consumers' attention over "organic" and "all natural" hot dogs. Many shoppers are misled to believe these products don't contain cancer-causing preservatives, such as nitrites and nitrates.