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How To Understand 'Confusing' Food Labels At Grocery Store

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Health-conscious food shoppers often want to know if what they're buying is organic or whether animals have been raised humanely. Experts say those labels are tricky and not all products meet the same standard.

At the grocery store, you'll find all kinds of claims and seals on food packaging, but Consumer Reports says the labels don't always mean what you think.

"We wanted to make sense of it for consumers and help them understand which are the claims that I can trust," Consumer Reports senior policy analyst Charlotte Vallaeys said.

The nonprofit analyzed many of the claims made on today's food.

"Because labels are so confusing," Vallaeys said.

Take products labeled non-GMO if you really want to avoid genetically-modified foods. This is the label that counts.

"They really should look for the non-GMO product verified seal, which has meaningful standards behind it and good verification requirements," Vallaeys said. "For example, sending food to a lab to make sure it's non-GMO."

For organic food shoppers, Consumer Reports gives the USDA organic seal an excellent rating.

But packaging that says natural or all-natural is not the same as organic.

That claim gets a poor rating because it means different things for different foods and it isn't regulated by a government agency.

There is also confusing labeling when it comes to antibiotics.

"Consumers should really look for no antibiotics ever and then a seal to accompany it, which could be USDA processed verified or another one is USDA organic," Vallaeys said.

People concerned about how animals are raised should check for the seals American grass-fed, certified humane and animal welfare approved.

Experts say a careful reading and understanding of the labels can give shoppers more confidence in their choices.

For more information on Consumer Reports' guide to food labels, click here.

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