How to properly read complicated food labels

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Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019

(CBS) -- Health-conscious food shoppers often want to know if what they're buying is organic or whether animals have been raised humanely, but experts say those labels are tricky and not all products meet the same standard.

During a trip to the grocery store you'll find all kinds claims and seals on food packaging, but Charlotte Vallaeys with Consumer Reports says the labels don't always mean what you think.

"We wanted to make sense of it for consumers and help them understand which are the claims that I can trust," said Charlotte Vallaeys, a senior policy analyst with Consumer Reports

The non-profit analyzed many of the claims made on today's food. People say food labels are too confusing.

Take products labeled non-GMO, Vallaeys says if you really want to avoid genetically modified foods, you should look for a product seal that shows it's "non-GMO verified".

"[The seal] has meaningful standards behind it and good verification requirements. For example, sending food to a lab to make sure it non GMO."

For organic food shoppers, Consumer Reports gives a USDA Organic seal an excellent rating. But packaging that says natural or all natural is not the same as organic. That claim gets a poor rating because it means different things for different foods and it isn't regulated by a government agency.

There is also confusing labeling when it comes to antibiotics.

"Consumers should really look for 'no antibiotics ever, and then a seal to accompany it which could be USDA processed verified or another one is USDA organic," Vallaeys explained.

And people concerned about how animals are raised should check for the seals "American grassfed", "certified humane", and "animal welfare approved". Vallaeys says a careful reading and understanding of the labels can give shoppers more confidence in their choices.

CLICK HERE for the full label guide. 

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