Are “Natural” Foods Healthy?
You’d be making a smart move and be eating healthy if you simply filled your cart with “100% Natural” food products, right? Sorry, it is not that easy. Turns out the use of the term “Natural” on food labels is indeed misleading, confusing, and as it turns out completely legal. That’s because according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ( eatright.org ) neither the US Food and Drug Administration nor the Federal Trade Commission have a strict definition for the term; the FDA says it “has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.” But so-called “natural” foods can still contain a wide range of processed sweeteners, lab-produced “natural” flavors and colors, additives and preservatives.
Why “Natural” food labels are allowed
No formal definition for the use of “natural” on food labels has been issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, “natural” claims have become common and even to the point of outrageous on new foods and beverages as you’ll see in this “Natural Effect” video on deceptive marketing on product labels .
FDA follows a 1993 policy that states:
[FDA] has not objected to the use of the term on food labels provided it is used in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and the product does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. Use of the term “natural” is not permitted in a product’s ingredient list, with the exception of the phrase “natural flavorings.”
USDA allows the use of the term “natural” to be used in meat and poultry labeling on products that contain no artificial ingredients or added color. The product also must be only minimally processed. The label must explain the use of the term natural, for example, no added coloring; minimally processed.
“Natural” by Definition
The real definition however, of “Natural” according to multiple dictionary sources reads a bit different than the FDA’s more relaxed interpretation of the same word as it applies to food. By definition (dictionary.com):
1.existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind.
- “carrots contain a natural antiseptic that fights bacteria”
Can GMO foods (foods that contain genetically modified organisms) be “natural” ?
Yes! As noted in this food “mocumentary” video they should technically be allowed to say they are even “200% natural” in the case of GMO ingredients. Confused after reading the definition of natural? So am I because by definition “genetically modified”, (the “G” and “M” in GMO), means that humankind did in fact alter the food! So next time you take a trip down the supermarket aisle you should be aware you may be in fact filling your basket with “Natural” GMO foods! If you’d like to know why GMO foods should not be considered natural, search more on this category here why GMO foods are (Not) Natural Foods.
What to do?
Only the USDA Organic Seal and the Verified Non GMO Seal guarantees your food contains no Genetically Modified Organisms, no toxic pesticides, and no growth hormones or antibiotics.
Look for these labels to ensure you are eating clean: