Inside the Good Housekeeping Institute

Good Housekeeping is one of the biggest brands in the world, connecting with over 31 million women each month. It's also backed by a more-than century-old institute that, today, is a top-of-the-line testing lab.

I think the Good Housekeeping Institute is one of the coolest things in New York City. It has experts who test thousands of consumer products each year.

If you have a question about anything you might buy from food and drinks to blenders and blow dryers, this is the place to go first.

What are the things you actually need? What are the things that are going to make a difference in your life? Those are the questions they're answering at the Good Housekeeping Institute, which is the entire 29th floor of Hearst Tower in New York City.

Director Laurie Jennings says they test products all the time, from health and beauty to cleaning products, home appliances, and food items.

While the Good Housekeeping Institute took over this floor in 2006, it has been testing products at Good Housekeeping for over a century, determining what is worth having in your house.

The Institute started in 1900 as The Experiment Station. Good Housekeeping itself started in 1865. Over the last 115-plus years they've been at the forefront of consumer health and wellness, and were among the first to point out the dangers of smoking. Jennings says GH stopped accepting smoking ads in the 1950s, 12 years before the Surgeon General's report.

Today, the Good Housekeeping Seal is one of the toughest seals of approval to achieve, and it's backed by a two-year warranty. Jennings says 89 percent of consumers trust the seal, which doesn't have a single blemish on its record. She says GH stands by everything it has been testing for over 100 years.

The Institute is also expanding, introducing the Green Good Housekeeping Seal in 2009. Jennings says consumers read labels that say "natural, non-toxic, green" and don't know what that means. Good Housekeeping clears up the confusion by checking for water safety, water usage, and end-of-life usage. What do they do with the product at the end of its life? What is its recommended use? Is it recyclable?

This year, the institute launched the Good Housekeeping Nutritionist Approved Emblem to make food shopping simpler. Jennings says the nutrition director, a registered dietitian, will look at food products and assess for things like fiber content, sugar content, ingredients, and labeling. She checks that the claims can be validated.

Back in 2001, Good Housekeeping realized the popular snack, Pirate's Booty, was overselling its low-fat content. Jennings says the nutrition director at the time thought it tasted way too good to have just 2.5 grams of fat. She was right. It actually had 8.5 grams.

The testing at the Good Housekeeping goes on at 6 different labs: Health and Beauty, Textiles, Appliances and Technology, Cleaning and Home Care, Engineering and Technology, Nutrition, and the very popular Test Kitchen. And GH is expanding those areas, too.

Jennings says the Nutrition Lab is under renovation and about to become a fully functioning studio kitchen that they are dubbing "The Kitchen of the Future." It will have all the latest technology and the smartest of smart appliances.

This is the first in a series of stories we're doing with Good Housekeeping on Fox 5. Look for them Wednesdays on Fox 5 News at 5 p.m. I'll be visiting each of the testing labs at the institute. We'll cook, try out kitchen appliances, check out hair products and help you figure out what's really worth your money.