Deciphering Food Marketing Claims

Every where you turn companies are claiming their products are all natural, low fat, organic, and locally grown. But what does it all mean, really? Here’s your quick guide to deciphering those food marketing claims.


Really…natural Cheetos? They have to be kidding.

Fat Free
– Contains less that .5g of fat per serving

Low Fat – 3g or less of total fat

Low Calorie – 40 calories or less per serving. But make sure to check how much a serving is. Read more about that here.

Lean – Meat, poultry, seafood and game meat with less than 10g fat, 4g saturated fat and 95mg cholesterol per serving

Reduced Fat – At least 25% less fat that the regular version

Sugar Free – Less that .5g of sugar per serving

Good source of… – means that one serving contains 10-19% of the daily value

Excellent source of …- means that one serving contains 20% or more of the daily value

Natural – The FDA does not restrict the use of the term ‘natural’ except for foods with artificial flavors, chemical preservatives and added colors. That means, ‘natural’ has no legal definition and is left up to manufactures to decide. That’s never good.

Free Range – This term is only reserved for poultry. It’s defined by the USDA as ‘poultry that has been allowed access to the outside.’ The term ‘cage-free eggs’ bears no actual legal definition. To be sure that your eggs and poultry are truly free range, buy them direct from the farm at a farmers market.

Organic – This term is regulated by the USDA and means that pesticides or fertilizers were not used in the food’s production and that it contains no genetically modified organisms. When the ‘Organic’ symbol is used on a package that means at least 95% of the ingredients in the food are organic. If it says ‘Made with organic ingredients” it means at least 70% of products are organic.

Local – Refers to where the food was grown/produced not consumed. There are is no real guidelines on the term so it’s up to you to read the labels and ask questions. The US Congress has defined ‘local’ as a product that is less that 400 miles from it’s original origin or within the state it’s produced. Whole Foods defines it as, foods that have traveled seven or fewer hours by car or truck.


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