PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The word “natural” has become a big buzzword on processed food packaging.

But Consumer Reports’ ShopSmart says beware. It doesn’t always mean what you think.

“The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t adequately define what natural means. So a manufacturer can make the claim even when a product contains artificial ingredients,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, of Consumer Reports.

That explains why foods like Kikkomen soy sauce can boast that it’s naturally brewed, yet it contains synthetic sodium benzoate, a popular preservative.

It also means Bosco chocolate syrup can brag that it’s all natural, but still list high fructose corn syrup, a highly-processed sweetener as its first ingredient.

Crystal Light natural lemonade sounds wholesome, but it contains things like maltodextrin, artificial coloring agents, and BHA, a synthetic preservative.

Even Whole Foods’ own Doctor Snap soda, which proudly calls itself all-natural, also contains artificial caramel coloring, which Consumer Reports tests found can contain at least carcinogen.

But experts from ShopSmart Magazine say there are ways to detect a misleading natural label.

Watch out for wording like “made with natural ingredients,” “naturally flavored,” and “naturally brewed.”

All are meaningless terms which can make foods sound wholesome even when they’re not.

“And don’t take labels at face value,” said Jody Rohlena, of ShopSmart Magazine. “You always want to look at the ingredients list. If it contains a bunch of things you can’t pronounce, you probably want to do a little more homework.”

Consumers Union, the advocacy branch of Consumer Reports, is so fired up about this; it’s calling for a ban on the “natural” phrasing.

It’s already filed petitions with the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For more information, visit this link to Consumer Reports’ ShopSmart website.

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