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What's Really in Your Greek Yogurt? 5 Surprising Ways Food Companies Cheat and Mislead Consumers

Even the most savvy shopper could be persuaded by some of these false claims.

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If you ever bought into the Vitaminwater-as-health-drink craze, don’t beat yourself up. It would be easy to do with all the misleading claims Vitaminwater’s parent company, Glaceau (which is now owned by Coca-Cola), puts out there. The company was recently caught claiming on its UK Web site that Vitaminwater is " spring water with fruit juice." The company soon backtracked, acknowledging the “incorrect description of the brand’s ingredients.”

As the Huffington Post notes, Vitaminwater has also been targeted for falsely claiming that its products can heal the flu, among other things.

3. Airborne’s claims: not backed up by science.

I’m as guilty as the next gal when it comes to giving Airborne my hard-earned dollars. When I have a cold, I’m so desperate to ease my suffering that I’ve even believed on occasion that the stuff was doing something.

Unfortunately, there’s no legitimate scientific evidence that Airborne does what it claims: knock out colds. As this ABC investigation from 2006 shows, Airborne’s health claims – including, in one release, the claim that the product can relieve you of your cold in as little as an hour – are backed up by GNG Pharmaceutical Services, which is a sham:

GNG is actually a two-man operation started up just to do the Airborne study. There was no clinic, no scientists and no doctors. The man who ran things said he had lots of clinical trial experience. He added that he had a degree from Indiana University, but the school says he never graduated.

Airborne settled a class-action lawsuit over those false claims, paying out more than $23 million in 2008.

Today, Airborne’s claims are more circumspect (“Helps support your immune system!”), but the old myth that Airborne products can help beat a cold lingers.

4. That pomegranate juice is not actually going to help you “cheat death.”

Juice is delicious and generally nutritious (assuming it came from actual fruit and not a vat of fruit-like flavoring). But does pomegranate juice in particular have the ability to help you “cheat death,” the way POM Wonderful claims?

The short answer is no. As I wrote  in an article this spring, POM Wonderful recently became embroiled in an FTC false-advertising case for claiming that pomegranate juice has unique powers to ward off prostate cancer, heart disease and other health problems – claims backed up entirely by studies funded by the company itself.

After the FTC concluded that POM Wonderful had created deceptive advertisements, the company doubled down on those false claims, taking an FTC judge’s quotes out of context and putting them in yet more deceptive ads about what a miracle elixir POM Wonderful is.

Remember that the next time you pass by a bottle of the stuff.

5. Activia claims about aiding digestion are full of sh*t.

More yogurt controversy! This time we have Activia, the yogurt brand shilled by Jamie Lee Curtis in those obnoxious commercials full of cringe-worthy euphemisms for pooping.

Last year Activia got slapped by the FTC for falsely claiming that it’s "clinically proven to regulate your digestive system within two weeks." (At the same time, the FTC also got Dannon, Activia’s parent company, for claiming that DanActive is "clinically proven to help strengthen your body's defenses." Dannon had to pay a total of $21 million.)

Apparently there is evidence that Activia can help “temporary irregularity or help with slow intestinal transit time” – if you eat it three times a day. And who is really going to do that?

As in the Airborne case, plenty of consumers are still sure to think that eating Activia for breakfast each day will solve their digestive issues. After all, Jamie Lee Curtis is still making those damn commercials.