Answer: There is no regulated or legal definition for the use of "clean" when it comes to the marketing of food items. While we all want to make sure the foods and beverages we buy and consume are safe to eat and are clean (i.e. free from dirt or contamination); the use of the word "clean" on everything from wine to snack items has taken on quite a different tone. Depending on the product ( or the marketing company) it may mean:
• it is organic ( which does have a legal meaning by the USDA)
• it has a limited list of ingredients
• it has no artificial ingredients
• it was minimally processed
...or it may mean none of those things!
Bottom Line: Because the word "clean" has no legal or regulated meaning in foods or beverages; brands may use the word "clean" when marketing products without really explaining or defining what it means. This may be done to give products an undeserved "health halo" i.e. you think the product is better for you than it actually is.
As a shopper don't be influenced by words and claims on the front of the package -- read the ingredients and check the Nutrition Facts panel for yourself.
Leah McGrath, RDN, LDN
Ingles Markets Corporate Dietitian