The claim “natural,” which is stamped on countless food labels, is widely misunderstood by consumers, according to a new a survey of 1,000 people from the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Nearly 60 percent of people look for the term when they shop for food, probably because they think the products labeled natural are better for them than products without that claim.
About two-thirds believe it means a processed food has no artificial ingredients, pesticides, or genetically modified organisms, and more than 80 percent believe that it should mean those things.
The reality is that the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t developed a formal definition for the term. The agency says that manufacturers can use natural if nothing artificial or synthetic has been added to the food, yet those ingredients are still found in many “natural” products. “Our findings show consumers expect much more from the ‘natural’ food label,” says Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Center at Consumer Reports. “It’s misleading, confusing, and deceptive.”
To help consumers make more informed choices at the grocery store, Consumer Reports is launching a new campaign to ban the term “natural.” The campaign, which is being done in partnership with TakePart, a social media platform, will involve a petition drive aimed at pressing the government to prevent manufacturers from using the “natural” label.