What images come to mind when you think of a natural food? An apple freshly picked from a tree? A loaf of bread fresh out of the oven? Fresh green beans right out of the garden?
Some food manufacturers are finding themselves in hot water for labeling their foods as natural when maybe they’re not so natural after all. Food companies are cashing in on the natural perception, as consumers often believe these products are better for them and are willing to pay more.
After settling a lawsuit, General Mills agreed to remove Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oatsfrom their Nature Valley granola bar labels. Another lawsuit was filed against Natural Beverages Corporation, parent company of LaCroix drinks, who label their drinks as natural. The suit alleges that the drinks contain artificial ingredients, but LaCroix strongly denies the claim. It should be noted that just because an ingredient is artificial does not mean it is harmful.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is being called on to create parameters for using the term natural on food labels. According to the FDA, it 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. The FDA did not consider whether the term natural should describe any nutritional or other health benefit (fda.gov).
Normally I am not a proponent of lawsuits, but in this situation, anything that protects the consumer is a good thing. In the meantime we await the FDA’s regulatory definition of the term natural.
Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian with over 15 years of experience. Have a nutrition question? Email it to DearDietitian411@gmail.com.