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Sunday, June 5, 2016

What is a “Natural” Food?

Ever go to the grocery store and find “All Natural” written across the package front?   Doesn’t that sound healthy?   A good for you food?  As some of your friends what “natural” means and you will get a lot of different answers.  So what does a food labeled “natural” or “all natural” mean?  As noted in What Does "Natural" Mean to the FDA?,  Unlike “organic,” which is legally regulated, “natural,” when seen in the aisles of your local supermarket, can mean pretty much anything the processors like.
The federal government has yet to regulate the term “natural” or “all natural” so manufacturers use the terms to sell you on their product.  I was buying something once that said, “all natural ingredients”.  Then I looked at the ingredients and found “sucrose” or white table sugar listed. There is nothing “natural” about table sugar, it is highly processed food almost devoid of vitamins and minerals. 
What is FDA doing about regulating the definition of the term, “natural”?

The article Is Your Food "Natural"?  F.D.A. to Weigh In notes that since 2014 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been asking consumers what the term “natural” means to them and what it should mean.  They are also asking the public if FDA should be involved in regulating the term, “natural”.  Many people have commented and FDA is reviewing what you and others have to say.
 How much do we spend on “natural” products?

We spend big on items labelled “natural”, more than $40 billion a year.  This includes yogurt, cereals, breads, beverages and other foods bearing the “natural” label. 
What does “all natural” mean to many consumers?
Many consumers think that “all natural” means the food has no pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, artificial ingredients or any GMO’s.  Unfortunately, for consumers this isn’t true.  There are actually lawsuits against companies using the “all natural” label when their product contains artificially, genetically modified, or synthetic ingredients.  But some judges find it hard to rule on these cases as FDA has yet to define “natural” or “all natural”. 
How easy or hard is it to define “natural”?
As discussed in the article, Is Your Food "Natural"?  F.D.A. to Weigh In, there is a lot of disagreement.  An organic peach can be “natural” but is a canned peach in sugary syrup, “natural”?   What if the product contains high fructose corn syrup or even white table sugar and if these are from genetically modified crops?  Some companies have abandoned “natural” because of potential lawsuits.  So you probably won’t find “natural” or “all natural” on Campbell’s soups, Frito-Lay chips, or Pepsi products.  So the next time you are buying food or snacks, don’t reach for the “natural” product as the term is really meaningless. 

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