When it Comes to Food Packaging, The Word *Natural* Means … Nothing

Natural Label

The FDA has a very long list of rules that pertain to nutrition labels, ingredient lists, and health claims on a packaged food product. The regulations are far from perfect, but are much better than the Wild West labeling of just 30 years ago.

Unfortunately, there is still plenty of wiggle room for companies to deceive consumers. One of the glaring holes in the FDA’s regulatory framework is a lack of definition for several key words. While use of the term “Healthy” is limited to products with certain nutrient values, the use of the word “Natural” is still open to interpretation.

Consumer confusion results when products made with high fructose corn syrup, GMOs, and other highly processed ingredients are labeled as “100% Natural” in order to bestow them with health marketability.

In this well crafted video, an organic food advocacy group takes a humorous poke at the lameness that is the “Natural” label.

  • Barbara

    I am outraged! If only more people could understand how this works… There should be programs in schools that go into depth about these topics and assist in educating youngsters about nutrition and health. At 25 years old, I’m just starting to learn and re-educate myself about healthy choices and why “junk food” is really “junk”… I’m so disappointed that it hadn’t been so obvious growing up.

    • http://greeneyedguide.com/ Danielle Robertson

      I recommend the book “Read It Before You Eat It” by Bonnie Taub-Dix. It’s a great read, and she explains all sorts of label terms like “natural” and what “organic” really means. Honestly, I can’t recommend the book enough. I think you’d enjoy it and it would help you. @GreenEyedGuide

      • Barbara

        Thanks, I will definitely check it out!

      • EVIL food scientist

        It would be helpful if the majority of shoppers understood that “Organic” means that a farm holds to an agreed upon production standard. It does NOT mean “grown by hippies in the backyard and driven to the farmer’s market via bicycle” as the majority of people who want “organic” products
        Michael Polland (A darling of the fooducate and organic set) said:
        “They’re organic by the letter, not organic in spirit… if most organic consumers went to those places, they would feel they were getting ripped off.”
        I know people in the FDA and USDA. There’s a reason they didn’t want to get involved in “organic” initially and now REALLY don’t want to get involved in “Natural” (or are taking the direction that natural = completely unaltered commodity) is because they knew that having a government agency regulate what a term means will do NOTHING BUT piss off the people who want the term defined.
        The vast majority of items sold in supermarkets and other stores are produced by massive factory farms. They just use different pesticides and keep a boatload of paperwork regarding the product and the process.
        The irony of the situation is that the process is so record keeping oriented and cumbersome, that it pushes the hippies with the VW microbus converted to biodiesel that they brew from used fryer oil they collect from the vegan co-op out of the picture.

        Have a look at the top 100 organic food producers in the world. Every single one is part of a major food producer (some of which are regularly vilified here at fooducate).

    • Kalda McCray

      It’s about money if you watch Vegucate, Food Matters, Frankensteer, Food Inc. the more production of junk they give us the more money they make we’re the only country that welcomes GMO foods Bolivia got rid of all there McDonald’s china so many countries are saying no to Gmo except the good ole USA you have to educate yourself on healthy eating

    • bthomas

      I used to teach this to my students during English class. Their homework was to go to the store and bring in the most deceitful packaging and then explain it or write a paragraph over it. I am so angry about the food laws. I no longer teach because I have retired.

      • Barbara

        That was a great idea! Thanks for being an educator!!

  • http://www.absoluteentrainment.com Fistuk

    The terms “natural” or “organic” are a marketing scheme and a fad. Worse, by giving something a label, you make it sound like it’s the odd thing or the alternative product, which makes it sound hippy, pretentious, and unnecessary to many people, which in effect makes it undesirable to them. At the same time, it allows “organic food” to be sold at higher prices, because people consider it healthier. Natural ≠ healthy. Organic has different definitions depending on the certifier, which makes it vague. The term “natural food” is tautological. Food, by definition, is natural, and therefore does not necessitate the prefix “natural”. The more appropriate terms that should be used are “food” and “pseudo-food”,
    since food is the real thing and is natural and organic, and pseudo-food is the strange, undesirable alternative.

    • http://greeneyedguide.com/ Danielle Robertson

      Are frozen veggies and canned green beans food or pseudo-food to you? Personally, I think “Organic” is a bit of a misnomer because, in
      chem-speak, everything that’s carbon-based is “organic”…but I digress.
      As a shopper, I’m glad for the Organic distinction but wish the
      “natural” distinction would become extinct. I’ve reviewed the
      requirements food must meet for it to be labeled “Organic” and the
      requirements are not easy to meet. I’m (almost) happy to pay the higher
      prices for organic food because I know I’m getting what I pay for. That
      said, obviously organic does not automatically mean safe, or healthy.
      Are we paying higher prices for the “healthy halo”? I think not. I think
      it’s legitimately more costly to run an organic facility and to meet
      the several requirements for proving your product meets the standards
      for putting “Organic” on the label.

  • Alan Mark

    excellent video

  • Ashley

    I used to work for a package design agency, and was horrified at the things I saw! They slapped the “All Natural” statement on EVERYTHING. It was ridiculous.

  • Amber Finlay

    Hello, stopping by from The Lean Green Bean – Bean Bytes post :)
    I’ll admit, I used to be easily fooled by the natural label – I kind of knew it didn’t mean the product was automatically “healthy”, but I thought there were some sort of guidelines. What an eye-opener! & How frustrating for the uneducated public!

  • HelloKilly

    Until the label “Organic” means the same thing everywhere, it’s mostly pointless. The FDA has a very LOOSE interpersonal as to what “Organic” farms must do to be called that. In Europe, much of what would be called Organic here, couldn’t even be SOLD there. Monsanto and it’s other counterparts have greased enough palms to get in the game and made sure there are enough loopholes for them to stay there. If you want to eat healthier/safer foods, you first have to change the law.

    • HelloKilly