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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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Of all the ways marketing pros lie to consumers, their lies about food may be the most maddening. Telling people that buying a new pair of shoes will them look like a supermodel is toxic in its own way, but misleading shoppers into thinking that the food they buy is natural or healthy when it is not is toxic in a much more literal sense.

Of course any halfway-savvy shopper knows that grocery store shelves are positively rife with misleading claims. Nutella claiming it’s a health food? That one was so bald-faced that a recent lawsuit against the company was roundly mocked.

But other lies are more subtle and confusing. Largely unregulated claims like “natural” don’t help the situation, nor does the willingness of food companies to exploit consumer insecurities. “You can have it all!” the big corporate food companies seem to be saying to grocery shoppers. “You can buy packaged, processed food that saves you time while also becoming healthier, skinnier and more beautiful! The proof is right there on the package.”

Another problem is that food companies, especially the corporate ones, are often willing to cut corners in order to pad their bottom lines.

Below you’ll find examples of all of these problems. Some of the claims are obvious lies, while others may surprise you.

1. Your Greek yogurt may be neither Greek nor yogurt.

If you’ve never tried it before, Greek yogurt is much thicker than regular yogurt, with a higher protein content. It’s a product that’s caught on in the U.S. in recent years, as consumers (I count myself among them) fell in love with the rich, luxurious texture.

As it turns out, some brands of “Greek yogurt” that have started filling up grocery store shelves are not made in the true Greek style. What’s more, some of it may not even technically be yogurt. Consumerist recently wrote a post about the issue, especially focusing on Liberté, which is widely available in U.S. supermarkets:

For example, some companies just add more milk protein concentrate to the mix instead of making and straining a batch of regular old yogurt. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail , Canadian brand Liberté uses this method to manufacture their Greek yogurt. They explain the product on the company web page as follows:

A yogurt strained according to the principles of old-time cheesecloth draining, which gives it an incredibly rich and creamy texture and one that’s absolutely free of fat.

So they use the "principles of old-time cheesecloth draining," but don't double-strain their yogurt. Gotcha. Liberté is now part of General Mills. Some annoyed yogurt-lovers filed a class-action suit against the company, alleging that the use of milk protein concentrate in its Yoplait brand Greek yogurts isn't just misleading to consumers, but means that Greek yogurt products shouldn't legally be permitted to call themselves "yogurt."

Major bummer.

2. Vitaminwater ≠ vitamins + water.

At first glance, Vitaminwater seems like it’d be somewhat healthy-ish – it comes in unnatural colors, yes, but the name suggests that the product is basically vitamin-infused water. Right? Wrong.

In fact, Vitaminwater is a whole lot worse for you than water; the grape flavor contains 13 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving, and lists crystalline glucose (sugar) as the second ingredient. (However, despite widespread claims on the Internet, it is not worse for you than regular soda. Coke contains closer to 30 grams of sugar in every 8 ounces. Natural fruit juices also often contain more sugar than Vitaminwater, though those are, of course, natural sugars.)