"Natural" doesn’t mean anything when looking on the labels of packaged goods according to Consumer Report.
Over 66% of consumers who shop for natural foods think that the word "natural" means something. I even find myself doing this from time to time thinking that the product I am buying is really all-natural! I thought just because the label said "natural" that the food didn’t contain any artificial ingredients, pesticides and genetically-engineered organisms. When I see the word on poultry or meat I never thought about growth hormones, antibiotics or other drugs in the animals’ feed. This whole entire time of being a consumer, I was absolutely WRONG!
In fact, the word "natural" doesn’t mean anything when it comes to federal labeling rules. This means that companies can misguide you in a way that is perfectly legal.
Consumers were asked what the word natural should mean on a label and a shocking 85 percent said that it should mean no pesticides were used when growing it and that it contained no genetically modified or artificial ingredients of any sort. I can honestly say that I thought the same thing when I read the labels. I didn’t really think about how the food was grown and what chemicals were used during the process. I definitely didn’t think about the various hormones that could have possibly been used during the animals feeding process either. This is very different from the current federal rules however.
Urvashi Rangin, executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center in Yonkers, said "Our findings show consumers expect much more from ‘natural’ food labels and that there is a strong consumer mandate for better food production practices in general food and label standards that meet a higher bar." I know I expected more from products that were labeled natural because I wanted quality for the price. If I am paying my hard-earned cash on a natural product then I expect everything to be natural and not genetically modified.
Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration allow food producers to utilize the word "natural" on labels as long as nothing synthetic or artificial had been added "that would not normally be expected to be in the food" under an informal policy FDA put into place in 1993. The bad thing about this is that the word "natural" sells more than $40 billion worth of food in the United States each year. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t even have an official definition of what "natural" means but explains that it’s difficult to define natural because the food could be processed and no longer a product of the earth.
I am pretty sure there are consumers and other food safety administrations that are fighting to have the word "natural" banned from food labels and other misleading claims. It is very difficult to picture how a farm is kept and how foods are processed unless you have been there. You may think of a perfectly green and sunny farm with fresh fruit and produce but it turn, it’s infested with pesticides, animals are mistreated and the farm itself is a total dump. I believe in local and neighborhood farming because at least you get an idea of where the product comes from and how the farm looks.
I do believe the FDA should still do their part and make sure all food products are safe with no false claims. If a term cannot be defined then it should not be slapped on a label to misguide consumers into spending their hard earned money on it. So the next time you visit your local produce market, watch out for the foods marked "natural" on the labels and read more about it to find out what it really contains.