Unhealthy Foods That Seem Healthy
The 7 Biggest Food Label Lies
Food Label Lie #6: Natural Cheetos
The Crime: Abuse of the term “natural.” Last I checked, Cheetos don’t grow in the wild. (Related: Discover 10 foods that really are all-natural)
The Evidence: When was the last time you saw a flowering field of disodium phosphate? Or how about a fresh crop of maltodextrin? Didn’t think so. These cheese puffs consist largely of corn, but they’ve been processed to the point that no 20th-century farmer would ever recognize them as food. What’s more, compared to regular Cheetos, they only have about 10 fewer calories per serving. Oh, and see those “natural flavors” on the ingredient statement? By FDA standards, those don’t even have to relate to the food in question. For all we know, those are tinctures made from bovine bone marrow.
The Takeaway: Except in the instance of some meat products, the FDA doesn’t regulate use of the word “natural,” leaving the food industry free to define it on its own terms. (And what a loose definition that often is—see for yourself with the 9 Natural Cereals That Aren’t.) In 2008, natural products reached $22 billion in sales, four times that of organic products. Defend yourself by reading the ingredient statement. If you can’t pronounce it, it probably ain’t natural.