“Natural” not all it’s cracked up to be

All Natural!

Photo by Flickr user chris.franson, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

So-called natural foods are everywhere you look in the supermarket. As Marion Nestle describes in a recent post for The San Francisco Chronicle,

In the last decade, new products marketed with “natural” claims have proliferated, and it’s easy to understand why. Marketers love the term. “Natural” sells products, not the least because consumers consider it a synonym for healthful and, often, for organic. Anyone would rather buy “100 percent natural seltzer water”—”calorie-free, no sugar, no sodium, gluten-free” (things never found in water)—than plain seltzer.

While “natural” does not necessarily mean “healthy” or even “healthier,” it works splendidly as a marketing term and explains why many junk-food manufacturers are switching from expensive organic ingredients to those they can market as “natural.”

The FDA isn’t fixing this situation because, according to a statement in response to a petition by Center for Science in the Public Interest, it’s “not an enforcement priority.”

Manufacturers of highly processed foods could not be happier with this nondecision.

For the full piece, which probes the FDA’s squishy definition of natural, head here. For more on the subject, check out my earlier post on this issue which is chock full of links.


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