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4 food label buzzwords explained

Fresh: The word "fresh" brings to mind the plucking of a ripe blueberry right off the bush, but in the world of packaged food, the word takes on different meanings. "Fresh" may be used to indicate that the food has not been preserved or processed in any way. "Fresh" may also indicate the age of a food – fresh-baked bread, farm-fresh produce, freshly-ground coffee beans – and should be accompanied by a "packaged-on" date. Since taste is subjective and up to the consumer, food companies can get away with claiming something is fresh-tasting even if it has been frozen and on the shelf for awhile.

Homemade: It may strike you as strange to see the word "homemade" on a food you're buying at the supermarket, but there it is. While it is potentially misleading, a food can be labelled "home-style" or "like homemade" or "tastes like homemade" even if it is made from a mix. However, the term "homemade" alone can't be used on commercially prepared foods.

Natural: Ah, nature – the mere mention of it hints at healthy benefits and makes a consumer feel good about a purchase. But just because the word "natural" is on a food label does not instantly make it better or more wholesome. Foods labelled "natural" may still contain a lot of sugar or fat. And though a food that has been processed or contains additives can no longer be classified as "100% natural," that doesn't necessarily mean that it has become unhealthy.

Organic: Like the word "natural," the word "organic" may lead consumers to believe that they're buying wholesome, nutritious food. But while some certified organic foods may be quite healthy, organic food production is more about environmentally-sustainable production practices and humane treatment of animals. In Canada, it is mandatory that a food claiming to be organic be certified by an appropriate certifying body (either in Canada or the US). It may bear the Canada Organic logo, a seal that assures you the food you're choosing was grown and processed according to an agreed-upon set of standards. However, the use of the logo is voluntary so not all certified organic products will have the logo.

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