Ben & Jerry’s Getting Honest about “All Natural” Label

As fooducate readers probably know by now, we take great care in pointing out marketing claims disguised as health claims. You know, the smart wordy quotes that make you feel you’re gonna live forever, disease free if you just buy this product and consume it every day, preferably twice daily. Even treats and candies get “healthified” with market speak in order to make them appear less harmful to one’s health.

Ice cream is no exception, and companies boast calcium content and reduced fat left and right. One of the most irritating bits of text on food packages is the “Natural” one. The FDA has not defined “Natural” as it relates to labeling products, and thus has left manufacturers to abuse the term by plastering it on products containing partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat), corn syrup, and other lab-produced culinary wonders.

Well, yesterday Ben & Jerry’s stepped up to the plate and decided to remove the “All Natural” label from some of its ice creams. The products whose package label are changing include ingredients such as alkalized cocoa, corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

From NPR’s health blog, Shots:

Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim stressed that the company uses the most natural ingredients it can find, and feels its products are “all natural” in the way reasonable consumers would understand the term.

However, as a Ben & Jerry’s spokesman told Shots, the company pulled the labels to avoid engaging in a debate over what’s natural and what’s not.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on showing people what’s in there,” said spokesman Sean Greenwood. “We’re not changing our quality at all.” read more…

Kudos Ben and Jerry’s.

What to do at the supermarket:

Beware of marketing tricks such as the “all natural” label. Ignore them and proceed directly to read nutrition facts and ingredient lists. If you want something all natural – buy unprocessed fruits and veggies, meat cuts, and bulk grains and legumes.

  • Brooke

    Now before anyone rants about how the government should regulate the use of this word and what can and cannot be labeled as “natural,” let me just say two things: The FDA has better things to do with your taxpayer dollars, and the industry will just invent the next buzz word/phrase to mislead consumers.

    I like Foodcuate’s “what to do at the supermarket”.

  • Ken Leebow

    Thanks for the info.

    You should start a rogue’s gallery of ridiculous/misleading health claims on packages. To get you started, here’s my current favorite:

    There are so many and they are so bizarre!

  • Jessica

    When we do treat ourselves to ice cream, it’s always B&J’s. Not only delicious, but small pints help us with portion control, and it’s a company we like and respect. Good info on B&J’s, thanks!

  • Celeste

    I think it’s hysterical that they said “reasonable consumers.” Obviously those of us that question their marketing and labeling are unreasonable. Good thing I’m happy being unreasonable and reading labels before I buy processed food.

  • Charlotte

    Interesting… The CEO of Ben and Jerry’s is from Norway. In Norway, they are phasing out or have done so of trans fats from baked goods. GM foods are not allowed. I hope he does good things for B&J… Next to Coldstone Creamery, B&J is my favoritest ice cream in the world :o )

  • Editorial Staff

    @Ken Leebow
    Great idea! thanks

  • twitterholic

    Thanks for writing something like this. Something else that’s related to Ben and Jerry’s is this video I saw on YouTube that can be found on the GreenopolisTV website. Check it out.