One of my earliest memories of the grocery store consisted of me riding under the cart pretending I was a spy. Now when I walk into the grocery store I am bombarded with products. Behind each of those products is an extremely talented marketing team that uses tactics to get us to select their product. One of the biggest marketing strategies employed to win consumers over is the use of the word “natural.” If you have purchased a food product only because the package claimed it was natural, then you will want to keep reading!
First, it is important to know who is regulating our food products. There is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply. Meat, poultry, and eggs is the United States Department of Agriculture’s responsibility to regulate. So, let’s take a closer look at how the FDA and USDA defines the word “natural.”
Natural. If you are like me when I see the word natural on a food product I think it is derived from the earth, through sustainable farming practices, is free from artificial dyes, contains no preservatives or GMO ingredients, and is beneficial to my health. Unfortunately, the USDA and FDA have a different definition than we do. The USDA defines natural as a product containing no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed. So, if you are purchasing meat, poultry, or egg products with a natural label, then there is meaning behind that label. If you are looking for meat, poultry, or eggs that are hormone–free and antibiotic–free then you will want to look for those labels in addition to the natural label. Throughout the rest of the grocery store the word natural is more of a buzz word because the FDA does not have a clearly defined definition for it.
Therefore, with no clear definition manufacturers and marketing teams can use the word natural to their advantage. In 2013 food products with the word “natural” on the label made up $40.7 billion in sales. Consumers are also more likely to buy natural over organic, according to a 2016 Consumer Reports survey. Now, the food manufacturers and marketers are not violating any rules by using this word. They are however relying on you having your own definition of what the word means and purchasing their product because of it.
The good news is the FDA is working on defining ‘natural’ and the bad news is they have been working on it since about 1982. So, in the meantime turn the package over and read the ingredient list to see what is contained in the product and if you are content with consuming the ingredients in that food product. If you are looking for more assurance as to how your food is processed then you will want to look for the “100% Organic” label. The “100% Organic” label has a clear definition and we will dig deeper into the organic label next week.
Women's Physical Health & Wellness Coach
Positively Well, LLC
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