You’re shopping at the supermarket and you see two jars of peanut butter sitting side by side on the shelf. One is labeled "natural," the other is labeled organic. Which do you choose? If you’re like the majority of consumers, the “natural” peanut butter will be the one you toss into your shopping cart.

A recent Consumer Reports National Research Center nationally representative survey (PDF) of 1,000 adults finds that more people purchase “natural” foods than organic foods—73 percent versus 58 percent. Nearly 70 percent of the people in the survey believe that organic foods are more expensive than "natural" foods. "We've seen time and again that majority of consumers believe the 'natural' label means more than it does," says Urvashi Rangen, Ph.D., the director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety & Sustainability Center, "and by buying 'natural' foods, they may think they're getting the same benefits as organic, but for less money."  

The term “natural” is organic’s imposter. Consumers attribute all sorts of benefits to the term—no antibiotics, no artificial colors, no GMOs, no synthetic pesticides. Organic means all those things but “natural” does not. In fact, there is no standard definition for "natural" foods at all. 

“It’s time for the ‘natural’ label to go away,” says Rangan. “There's a lot of evidence that consumers are confused about what the claim 'natural' actually means. And our surveys clearly show that consumers are being misled. The Food and Drug Administration has the responsibility to ban the use of the term on processed food packaging, or define it so it means what consumers expect it to—100 percent organic.”

And now we have a real opportunity to make that happen. In November 2015, the FDA asked for public comments on the use of “natural” on food labels, prompted in part by Consumer Reports’ efforts to ban the term. The deadline is today. Consumer Reports is submitting our comments (PDF) and a detailed petition signed by nearly 250,000 people along with a letter signed by 15 organizations (PDF) calling on the FDA to prohibit the use of “natural” or define it.

You can still make your voice heard today by posting your opinion about "natural" foods and the "natural" label on the FDA's website. 

What Does 'Natural' Mean?

When it comes to packaged food, labels can be deceiving. CR's expert, Trisha Calvo, reveals to 'Consumer 101' TV show host, Jack Rico, the real meaning behind the eye-catching words you see on packaging.