May 9th, 2014
Many foods today are marketed as being “all natural” and people buy them, thinking they are eating organic or close-to-organic food. But are they really natural or is it just good marketing?
First of all, consumers need to realize natural and organic are not the same. Organic foods are highly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and have not been subjected to synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering and more.
On the flip side, the FDA does not regulate “natural” foods or even have a strict definition of the term. Their official policy is that “the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances”. That leaves “natural” open to interpretation.
According to the American Society for Nutrition, foods containing natural flavors, sweeteners or other plant-derived substances can be labeled natural. In addition, foods containing highly processed high fructose corn syrup can also be labeled natural, since the synthetic materials used to generate HFCS are not incorporated into the final product. Finally, foods containing genetically engineered or modified ingredients can be labeled natural, something California's defeated Proposition 37 tried to prevent.
So, before you grab that box of “natural” snacks, read first. Look for the USDA organic seal on the packaging or peruse the label. You may be shocked at what your supposedly “natural” foods actually contain: processed sweeteners, natural flavors (often processed in a lab), cellulose, soy (one of the most commonly genetically modified crops) and more.
For more information, visit http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/food-labeling/organic-foods.