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“Natural” Leads 2013 Banned Food-Word List

As New Year resolvers restock pantries, “natural,” “made with,” and “whole grains” have made the Leanwashing Index’s 2013 list of food marketing words that should be banished to the land of advertising malarkey. The list is inspired by the appearance of “superfood” on Lake Superior State University’s 38th annual List of Words to be Banished.

The Top 5 Leanwashing Terms of the Year all appeared in ads posted by consumers in 2012 on, a free consumer-driven educational tool that allows people to post and rate food advertising. The Leanwashing Index calls on food marketers everywhere to immediately cease using the following terms:
Natural: The word that has no nutritional or legal definition yet appears on millions of packages, including sugar-laden sodas. Ignore it.
Made With: Food products can advertise they are “made with” liquid from the fountain of youth, even if fountain of youth juice makes up less than 1 percent of the final product. Ignore “made with” unless you are willing to read the entire ingredients label to make sure the product's not also “made with” tons of sugar and unpronounceable chemicals.
Whole Grains: Unless “whole grains” is preceded by "100 percent", watch out. Tiny traces of grains may have prompted the claim, and it’s especially tricky when paired with the other banished phrase, “made with.”
Light: Consumers must decide if 24 grams of sugar in a yogurt container is really “light.” Don’t let advertisers hypnotize you with this word. Read the nutrition information, read the nutrition information, read the nutrition information.
100 Calorie: Cookies, chips and other processed snacks are marketed in 100-calorie packages, leading consumers to believe what’s inside is a healthy choice. Many of these should be labeled “empty calorie” packages.
“We’re all for smaller portion sizes, but 100-calorie packs of crap are not healthy food,” said Leanwashing Index co-founder Valerie Davis, CEO of EnviroMedia Social Marketing.
EnviroMedia launched the Leanwashing Index in 2012 with input from a panel of advisers representing public health experts, academia and the food marketing industry.
Says Leanwashing Index adviser Dr. Stephen Pont of Dell Children’s Medical Center’s Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity, “When it comes to ‘natural,’ don’t forget ‘all-natural sugar’ and cane sugar are only marginally more healthy than high-fructose corn syrup. All are added sugars that add empty calories to whatever you, or your kids, are eating.”
To see how consumers have scrutinized and rated real ads,
go to


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