What does natural mean, anyway?
Consumer Reports and the social action group, TakePart, are using the results of a recent study on consumer perceptions of "natural" on food packaging to attempt to have the word banned.
Alternative understandings of the term were expressed by 1,000 shoppers. Of those participating, 60 per cent deliberately look for the word, with two-thirds believing it means products don’t contain "artificial ingredients, pesticides or genetically modified organisms — including artificial growth hormones, antibiotics or drugs in meat."
Further, 80 percent think using "natural" on the label should mean those things because, Consumer Reports hypothesizes, consumers believe "products labeled natural are better for them than products without that claim." They also found that 90 percent of participants want foods containing GMOs to be labeled, showing they meet government-set safety standards.
Urvashi Rangan, executive director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Center at Consumer Reports, declared the word "misleading, confusing, and deceptive." She added, "We want to clean up the green noise in the food label marketplace so Americans can get what they want — truthful labels that represent important and better food production systems."
The two organizations have a petition and further information at takepart.com/food-labels.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) supports voluntary labelng, as advised by the FDA. The group’s most recent statement on "natural" labels, endorsing the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) policy, came in response to The Guardian’s request for a comment about the Consumer Reports survey. USDA’s definition simply states products must "contain no artificial ingredients" and be "minimally processed."
Coverage of the Consumer Reports survey by Fox News referred to a previous, two-year attempt by the FDA to create a precise standard that ended in failure because it was "too complex."
Class-action lawsuits are also putting on the pressure, according to The Guardian, with several manufacturers already removing "natural" from packaging as a result. With $40 billion worth of "natural" food sold every year, according to Nielsen, the industry may be forced to find its own way.
- Say no to "natural" on food labels – Consumer Reports
- ‘Natural’ food is big business; too bad it’s meaningless – The Guardian
- Consumer Reports wants to ban misleading "natural" food labeling – Fox News
- Consumer Reports survey calls attention to FDA "natural" food labeling practices – hamptonroads.com
Do you agree the term “natural” on food labels is misleading to consumers? Should “natural” be banned as a product claim? Is there a role for retailers in clearing up the confusion?