Standards Needed for Food Products Labeled "Natural"
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has yet to establish a comprehensive definition of “natural" as it applies to food labeling. As a result, consumers are being duped. For example:
1) “Natural” livestock products are routinely produced using conventional factory farm methods, including intensive confinement, daily doses of antibiotics, growth hormones, GMO feed, and slaughterhouse waste. Even though wrapper-covered candy, chicken feathers and excrement, sawdust and other unnatural ingredients can be fed to livestock, the meat from that livestock can still be deceptively labeled and marketed as “natural.”
2) According to Consumer Reports (October 7, 2014) the results of tests conducted on more than 80 different processed foods containing corn or soy revealed that almost all of the products that were labeled “natural” contained substantial amounts of GMOs. Tested products included breakfast cereals, potato chips and even infant formula—all of them labeled “natural’. In contrast, the tests revealed that products labeled “organic” or “non-GMO” were in fact GMO-free.
The “natural” label, which has no formal definition, is a brilliant and highly profitable food marketing scam. According to the “United States Organic Food Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2018,” sales of so-called “natural” foods, including nutritional supplements, topped $70 billion in 2013. The "natural" label is so misleading, that according to a survey published by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, about two-thirds of consumers surveyed believe the term "natural" means that a processed food has no artificial ingredients, pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
No federal law, rule, or regulation defines the term ’natural,’ or its use on products. The FDA’s informal, non-binding guidance defines “natural” to mean “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food. Under pressure from Big Food – primarily the junk food industry and biotech companies – the FDA has not finalized a definition for “natural” and has not instituted a requirement for disclosing GMOs as “unnatural.”
The FDA must prioritize the greater good, i.e. allowing citizens to make an informed choice about what they eat, over corporate profits. Properly defining the "natural" food label would be a good start.