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When it Comes to Food, what Does the Label “Natural” Mean? (Part 1 of 2)


When we think of the term “natural,” we often associate it with food that is good for us and clean of the things that shouldn’t be in food.

The “natural” label on food can often have strength because it seems like we are getting quality food without having to pay for the cost of “organic” food.

But in the real world, where competition for dollars never ceases, anything that can be shoved into the “natural” category – an arena where folks are willing to pay more – will be shoved in. To protect ourselves from competition over dollars, we have come to expect the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to keep food manufacturers honest and information transparent.

So how does the FDA define “natural?” In their own words, here is what the FDA say’s about natural:

“It is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”

Having spent years as an agricultural banker, and later as a consultant to distressed agricultural enterprises, there is one rule that ought not be forgotten as relates to virtually everything: “The greater the stakes, the greater the likelihood of mischief.” Uploaded here is a short video clip by Consumer Reports on the “natural” food confusion.

One of the biggest contentions about the “natural” designation today is that GMO (genetically modified) foods can be labeled as “natural” without objection by the FDA. The FDA needs help in having the will to define “natural” and to ban its use by food companies preying on an unsuspecting public. Realistically speaking, the FDA will get the “will” to change things only when enough public pressure is applied.


The reality today is that most foods labeled natural are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and heath codes that apply to all foods.

On the forefront into investigations of what is in food is Vani Hari (see photo). Hari has immersed herself into investigation and publicizing her findings as relates to food.

She goes by the adopted name “The Food Babe.”  As a blogger, Hari has launched many drives to force food companies to clean up their act. Most recently, Hari was central to the effort that resulted in Kraft Foods agreeing to take out artificial food dyes for its popular macaroni and cheese products starting in 2016.

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