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Don’t be fooled by ‘natural’ labeling

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There’s no set standard for what food producers are allowed to label “natural.” So if you’re paying a premium for foods bearing the label — you’re being fooled.

You’re simply spending more on toxic pesticides, artificial growth hormones and GMOs. Because, basically, “natural” means the product was made using ingredients found on earth — which can include some 10,000 unhealthy additives.

Big food manufacturers are increasingly mislabeling foods containing dangerous ingredients and harmful chemicals as healthy, natural options—and American shoppers are being fooled daily.

Research just released from Consumer Reports shows that last year about 62 percent of Americans opted to buy so-called “natural” foods, believing they were free of genetically modified organisms, artificial ingredients and colors, chemicals and pesticides.

Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true.

Avoid the ‘natural’ marketing trap

Your very best option for truly natural food is to shop locally, either by finding farmers markets or small and mid-size farms in your area that sell directly to consumers. If you aren’t sure where to start, there are plenty of online resources, such as Local Harvest http://www.localharvest.org/, dedicated to putting shoppers in touch with local clean food producers.

When you do have to shop in chain grocery stores, there are a few things you can do to make sure you fill your basket with the healthiest options.

First, simply avoid any product labeled “natural” in the same way you avoid other obviously processed and unhealthy foods. After all, if the product truly is a healthy, natural option, it shouldn’t take so much convincing on the package.

When you do buy packaged foods, look for a “USDA Organic” or “Certified Organic” seal. By law, foods bearing those labels must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients free of pesticides, GMOs, chemical fertilizers and industrial solvents.

A label that says “100 percent Organic” means just that, 100 percent of the ingredients are legally required to be organic.

Unfortunately, there has been some speculation in recent years that the USDA is not doing enough to enforce organic labeling requirements. So it’s still a good idea to keep a close eye on ingredients lists and to learn as much as you can about where the foods you buy come from.

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