If you shop for foods labeled "natural," you're not alone. A new survey from Consumer Reports finds that almost two-thirds of shoppers say they usually look for foods that say they are "natural." But Consumer Reports says it doesn't necessarily mean what you think.
The buzzword at supermarkets these days is "natural." You see it on all kinds of packaged foods.
A Consumer Reports survey of American shoppers finds most people who buy processed foods labeled "natural" assume no toxic pesticides were used, or artificial ingredients and colorings, or GMOs, which are genetically modified organisms.
And almost half of those surveyed mistakenly think this has been independently verified.
"The problem is, the 'natural' label doesn't guarantee any of this. There are no government standards," said Urvashi Rangan, Ph. D., Consumer Reports.
In fact, manufacturers are allowed to use artificial ingredients in processed foods and label them "natural."
"Without oversight or a legal definition, the 'natural' label can be little more than a marketing tool that can fool consumers," Rangan said.
For example, Wesson vegetable oil is labeled "pure and 100 percent natural," but according to the company, it's made from genetically modified soybeans.
This Del Monte Fruit Naturals contains the artificial preservatives potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate, made from industrial chemicals. Del Monte did not respond to questions about the ingredients.
And this Kraft Natural cheese contains a mold inhibitor, natamycin. Kraft did not respond to questions either.
"We believe that for processed foods, the 'natural' label should mean organic plus no artificial ingredients. And there should be verification required - just like there is for the "organic" label - so consumers can be assured of what they are buying." Rangan said.
Consumer Reports wants the Food and Drug Administration to either ban the term "natural" or else define it in a meaningful way. As a result, the FDA is now asking the public to weigh in on how "natural" should or shouldn't be used on food labels.
You can offer your opinion at ConsumersUnion.org/natural.
All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2015. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org
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