Top five most misleading words in US food advertising revealed

  • January 29, 2013
  • Kate Carey

Popular food claims such as “natural,” “made with,” and “whole grains” have made the US-based EnviroMedia’s Leanwashing Index’s annual list of food marketing words that mislead consumers.

Launched by Enviromedia in 2012, the Leanwashing Index  allows consumers to post and rate the validity of health claims made in advertising, marketing and packaging processed foods on a scale of “authentic” to “bogus.”

EnviroMedia launched the Leanwashing Index with input from a panel of advisers representing public health experts, academia and the food marketing industry.

Leanwashing Index adviser Dr. Stephen Pont said that all added sugars are “empty calories”, regardless of whether they are “natural.”

“When it comes to natural,’ don’t forget ‘all-natural sugar’ and cane sugar are only marginally more healthy than high-fructose corn syrup,” Dr Pont said.

The Leanwashing Index for 2013 calls on food marketers everywhere to cease using these terms for the following reasons:

Natural: “The word that has no nutritional or legal definition yet appears on millions of packages, including sugar-laden sodas.”

Made With: “Food products can advertise they are “made with” liquid from the fountain of youth, even if fountain of youth juice makes up less than 1 percent of the final product. Ignore “made with” unless you are willing to read the entire ingredients label to make sure the product’s not also “made with” tons of sugar and unpronounceable chemicals.”

Whole Grains:  “Unless “whole grains” is preceded by “100 percent”, watch out. Tiny traces of grains may have prompted the claim, and it’s especially tricky when paired with the other banished phrase, “made with.”

Light: “Consumers must decide if 24 grams of sugar in a yogurt container is really “light.” Don’t let advertisers hypnotize you with this word. Read the nutrition information, read the nutrition information, read the nutrition information.”

100 Calorie: “Cookies, chips and other processed snacks are marketed in 100-calorie packages, leading consumers to believe what’s inside is a healthy choice. Many of these should be labeled “empty calorie” packages.”


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