5 On Your Side

Consumer Reports Tries To Sort Out Confusing Food Labels

Posted October 31, 2006 8:53 a.m. EST

— With 45,000 products jamming store shelves in your average grocery store these days, most labels get only a passing glance. Some eagle-eyed consumers were baffled by certain food labels and wrote to

Consumer Reports


The magazine hears from readers all the time who send food labels they find confusing. For example, the picture on the front of a Special K Fruit and Yogurt cereal box perplexed one reader. It shows strawberries, blueberries and raspberries along with the cereal.

There are no berries in the cereal, however. In fact, the only fruit in Special K Fruit and Yogurt cereal is pieces of flavored apple.

Two cans of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup confused another reader. The regular can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup states it has 1.5 grams of fat, but a can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup -- Healthy Request has 2 grams of fat. Testers found that the term "healthy" refers to sodium and cholesterol.

On the old label of Land O' Lakes whipped butter, a tablespoon used to be 9 grams, but on the new label, a tablespoon is 7 grams. A reader wanted to know when a tablespoon shrank?

Leslie Ware of

Consumer Reports

got an answer from the butter-maker.

"What Land O' Lakes said is that they whipped more air into the butter, so there's actually less butter per tablespoon, but more air," she said.

If you are confused by a food label, the Food and Drug Administration can help.

The Center For Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

can find out what claims are allowed on food labels as well as provide a guide to understanding nutrition labels.