What is “Natural”?

There was an article in the business section of the Palm Beach Post on Monday about the use of the word “natural” in the food industry. Apparently the Food and Drug Administration does not have a formal definition for the word, nor does it plan to create one in the near future. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a definition that applies to meat and poultry products which states a product is “natural” if it doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients and is only minimally processed.

The problem with not having a clear definition is that food and beverage manufacturers can make their own rules in regards to labeling. Deceptive labeling leads to confused consumers. Of course many consumers, who can’t be bothered to learn about nutrition or read labels, see the term “natural” and think, “oh, this must better for me than the product that doesn’t say that.”

So you end up seeing products containing high-fructose corn syrup labeled as “all-natural” when, in my book, high-fructose corn syrup is not at all natural. All-natural to me means no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. If it requires a chemical process to make it, it’s not natural. Bottom line – pay attention to what you’re eating!