Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Natural Food Label

Nothing natural about Cheetos.

  Labels, labels, labels -- they can be so confusing at the grocery store!

  We have 'USDA Organic', 'Natural', 'Gluten Free', 'Zero Trans Fats', 'Made with Real ...', 'Range Free', '100% Organic', and so on, and so on. And that's just the front of the box!

  So what do they all mean?

  Unfortunately, they're not easy to differentiate, or keep track of. The inclusion or exclusion of just one word, can make or break your 'healthy' purchases at the grocery store.

  Today, I'm going to tackle possibly the most-misleading, and most-useless label we have: 'Natural'.

  Anytime you see Natural on a food label -- in any capacity -- it doesn't mean a thing. The FDA has no definition, and no regulatory meaning for Natural. So whether the label says '100% Natural' or 'All Natural', it means the same thing: it's unregulated.

  In its description, the FDA says: " 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."

  Wow, no longer a product of the earth -- that's NOT natural.

  The ONLY time Natural has a meaning, is in regard to meat and poultry. But that definition isn't much clearer. The USDA has defined it as any product “containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product).”

  What does 'minimally processed' mean? And that definition doesn’t address whether or not the animals given hormones or antibiotics, or raised in confinement.

Organic vs. Natural vs. Conventional.
  However, if the label says 'Naturally Raised' it means "no growth promoters, antibiotics, animal by-products, or fish by-products" we used on the animal.

  Confused yet?

  Two things are clear: natural certainly does NOT mean Organic, and it doesn't mean it's healthier either. So let's lose those assumptions right away.

  By the FDA's 'definition', High Fructose Corn Syrup can be labeled as natural. So what can be in/on foods, and still be considered
natural? Pesticides, fertilizers,
and Genetically Modified ingredients (GMOs) for starters.

  And guess what -- those foods with the Natural labels, more often than not, are more expensive than foods without any sort of labeling.

  If you're spending extra money buying Natural, make the jump completely, and buy Organic.

  Organic is the only way you can be certain the foods you're buying contain no artificial coloring/preservatives/flavors, GMOs, and weren't sprayed with fertilizers and pesticides. Otherwise, save your money and buy conventional.

  Conventional and natural foods are roughly the same junk anyways.

  The labeling situation in the US is a mess. We, as consumers, regularly play guessing games when purchasing food at the grocery store. There is too much uncertainty; too many meaningless labels. Marketers are taking advantage of people who are making an effort to eat more-healthily, but can't keep track of the ever-changing lingo.

  Hope I was able to clarify the uselessness of our 'Natural' food labels!

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