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When Fruit Is Not Really Fruit on Food Labels

Nutrition experts want better rules for labels claiming fruit or vegetable content.

Have you ever picked one grocery item over another because its packaging claimed it contained real fruit or vegetables, only to learn that the product has virtually none of these healthy ingredients? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) would like to see fewer consumers being duped by such misleading label claims. In statements to the FDA, AND suggests that the federal agency use its food-labeling regulatory power to limit the ability of food manufacturers to use images and/or wording such as “made with real fruit” or “a source of vegetables” for products that, in fact, contain very little of either. Think Fruit Roll-Ups or blueberry granola, which contain much more sugar than fruit, or spinach pasta, which may be mostly refined carbs with just some green dust.

The FDA doesn’t dictate how much of an actual fruit or vegetable must be used in a product for companies to be allowed to make these nutrition claims. As we wait for tougher regulations, remember that veggie sticks are closer to potato chips than to a salad.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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November-December 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal

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