'Natural' on food labels is misleading

Consumer Reports is pushing to have the 'natural' claim banned

Published: August 2014

What is natural, and what does it mean on a food label? Right now it’s essentially meaningless. But it ends up misleading a great many consumers, according to a recent national survey of more than 1,000 Americans by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

More than 75 percent attribute specific meaning to the word, such as contains no artificial ingredients, artificial colors, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Or for meat and poultry, that the animals were never given anti­biotics or artificial growth hormones. None of that is necessarily true. Consumer Reports is pushing to have the label banned. You can sign the petition here. To date we have collected more than 18,000 signatures, but we need more to reach our goal of 25,000. Consumer Reports also invites consumers to attend a special event from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19, in San Francisco's City Hall called America's Most Wanted labels to examine food label claims.

Consumers care a lot about how their food is produced, and they have some specific concerns. Based on the survey results, most told us that they want their food produced in an environmentally friendly way, and they look to labels for cues as they make their decisions. When purchasing food, they want to support local farmers. Their other concerns include finding food that’s locally produced. And most are even willing to pay more for food to ensure that it was produced in fair working conditions.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the October 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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