Consumer Reports recently announced it is filing a petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit the use of the word “natural” in food marketing.
According to a recent survey, 85 percent of people were under the false impression that the “natural” label indicates food grown without the use of pesticides and that does not contain genetically modified (GM), or artificial ingredients. In fact, the label is an arbitrary one that ensures none of those assumptions—only that the product does not contain artificial coloring or that the meat you are purchasing does not contain any mixed in unnatural ingredients.
The same survey noted that a third of people do not make a distinction between the word “organic” and the word “natural” when shopping. Food manufacturers are well aware of this confusion and use “greenwashing” techniques, including the “natural” label, to make their product seem more health-friendly to consumers.
Other relatively meaningless food labels include, “made with [organic/natural ingredients,] “no nitrates added,” and “free range,” which does not necessarily mean that a chicken spent its life outdoors – only that a door to the outside existed somewhere in the coop.
As Americans become more savvy about the food they purchase, they are increasingly seeking out products that have been sustainably grown, without the use of dangerous chemicals, pesticides, or GM ingredients.
News about animal abuse, factory farming atrocities, and nation-wide beef and chicken recalls due to the unwholesome practices of food processors have created a demand for cruelty-free, organic, and sustainably-produced food products. Manufacturers have noticed the trend and are seeking to capitalize on it by fooling shoppers with “greenwashed” labels and packaging.
Consumer Reports is urging the FDA and USDA to regulate “natural” labeling and wants consumers to be aware of the deceptive marketing practices.