Hmm . . . aren’t all foods natural?
When you peruse the grocery aisles in your local supermarket these days you will find product labels claiming everything from health benefits to”Natural” or “All Natural.” The hope is that the product claims will compel you to toss the products into your grocery cart. As a consumer however you need to be wary of claims on food labels and you need to educate yourself about what you are being sold.
Going to the supermarket has become confusing. Shouldn’t buying food be more straightforward than this? It should be but as our food system has evolved, supermarket shelves now overflow with foods of convenience and foods that are heavily processed to include additives and ingredients to make them “taste good.” Companies now use the term “All Natural and Natural” to give the consumer the illusion that the food that they are buying is healthier for them. The problem is that this term is not regulated. There are no standards for what the definition of All Natural is.
According the the F.D.A. (U.S. Food and Drug Administration):
“From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”
One wonders how often the F.D.A. objects to the use of this term because of its ambiguity. This definition is perplexing because it essentially says that even if something has been heavily processed it can still be considered “Natural.” Food companies affix these seals to their packaging to give the appearance that a food that is “Natural” is healthier for you. The all natural logos are often green and earthy and of similar composition to the USDA Organic seal.
If you see the term All Natural in use on a label you should read the nutrition panel and check out the list of ingredients because much of the product may be processed and contain artificial ingredients and additives. All Natural foods may also contain GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). When purchasing a food that is labeled Natural you also need to be aware that these foods can contain ingredients or are foods that have been raised and grown using pesticides and antibiotics. Foods that are “Natural” and that do not contain any sort of animal welfare seal may be produced in conditions that may not be considered humane.
The All Natural label has driven sales for food companies and consumers have come to assume that it means more than it does. Many food companies have started removing this label from their products because they have been faced with lawsuits challenging “Natural” claims.
Only Organic, a coalition of Organic Food Producers recently posted this video sharing their take on “Natural vs. Organic.” I encourage you to take a look and you may even get a few chuckles while you are watching.
I challenge you to tell me about a product in your kitchen that has the “All Natural” label that makes you question the claim.
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