Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What do you think 'natural' means?

Remember past blog posts where I discussed the meaningless ‘all natural’ label declaration (see here and here, for example)? Well, it looks like enough people, or I should say, industries, have voiced similar concerns and with their clout, have moved this issue into the FDA action phase.

The FDA comments portal opens tomorrow and you can participate by clicking on this link.  The three main questions posed are:

Is it appropriate (for the FDA) to define the term “natural”?
If so, how should natural be defined (in regards to food/beverage products)?
How should the FDA determine if a manufacturer is using the term correctly on its food or beverage labels?

I have had two broad concerns with the labeling of an item as all natural (because that is the point of this, food companies want to boast a product as all natural, not just natural or containing natural ingredients). The first is that the term gives the product a ‘health halo’ that may not be justified. In other words, all natural just means all natural (except of course we don’t KNOW what that means). It does not mean health promoting, or nutrient rich, or low sodium/salt, or trans-fat free, or low calorie. None of the things that I want my purchases to be are described by the term natural - though I certainly want minimal processing. My second concern is within the parenthetical comment above- we don’t know what natural means! The old standard, but unenforced ethos from the FDA, was that it meant minimally processed, free of artificial dyes and such. That is far too subjective a definition. For something to be truly all natural, I believe it has to be a whole food, maybe it can contain preservatives, but surely it can’t come in a box. There are so many things that natural isn’t that I am of the mind that the word should NOT be allowed on any labels and thus it doesn’t have to be defined by the FDA. I think that is going to be my official comment. Instead of defining the term, I think that it should be banned from labels altogether.

What would your comment be? Speak up here… or the food industry will speak for you!

Update - 11/15/15 Oh my goodness, how could I have forgotten my favorite All Natural product - YES, peanut butter that isn't fortified or processed, that counts :)

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