Last week, one of the Exubrancy team members attended a lecture about Food Labeling in the United States. While many interesting issues were discussed , she came away feeling particularly motivated to share what she learned about the commonly used term ‘natural’ on food packaging.

What does ‘natural’ mean? When you go into a food store and see a carton of eggs with the term ‘natural’ boldly written across the front, you feel that these eggs
must be better for you than the ‘non-natural’ alternative, right? As consumers, it is not uncommon to think that products labeled as ‘natural’ would naturally be organic, and contain no preservatives, additives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or Corn Fructose Syrup.

As Americans become more and more health conscience, consumer patterns reflect that more of us want to eat products that will be beneficial  to our overall health. We have started to stray away from processed foods and purchase the organic, ‘natural’ and more expensive alternative. It is also common for many people to group the terms ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ together under the same umbrella of ‘OK TO EAT’. Unfortunately, big food companies have used this growing trend of healthy ‘natural’ eating to  manipulate their uneducated consumers by increasing the products financial value through it’s supposed health value.

The FDA’s website states:
“The FDA has considered the term ‘natural’ to mean that 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 that food.  However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term ‘natural’ should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.”   

In sum, ‘natural’ does NOT equate to ‘organic’, and furthermore, food products labeled as ‘natural’ aren’t always healthy for you. The federal Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), whose tagline is ironically “protecting and promoting your health” is duping us as consumers, and allowing our health to suffer for the profits of big business.

In direct response to three different public petitions, the FDA has issued a ‘comment period’ allowing the public to speak their minds about this issue. This ends next month, so make sure you have your say here, and urge the FDA to regulate the naturalness of our products! Natural should mean organic!

While the answer to our health issues would be to cease eating anything processed and packaged, America, in general, won’t do this. Many families and individuals still rely on these packaged foods. The main problem is that we as Americans are not getting what we pay for. Do your research next time you go food shopping, and do not be fooled into buying the ‘natural’ expensive alternative. Try to stick to organic products/produce. Want an even better tip? Try shopping for your fruits and veggies at a local farmer’s market! You can be almost positive that the produce  sold at your local market are fresh-picked straight from the farm - or at least we hope so!