What do the terms “all-natural” and “100-percent natural” on food packages mean to you? Chances are they don’t mean what you think they do.
Many consumers are under the impression that when they see terms like “all-natural” on a product it means that the food is organic or that it has had to adhere to certain restrictions to legally use the label. They feel such foods are healthier and more earth friendly or “green.”
But the harsh reality is that, in fact, there’s no real regulatory meaning at all for these terms. They are nothing more than attention-getting gimmicks…pure and simple. And to make matters worse, according to at least one consumer-advocacy group, the Cornucopia Institute, their use by food manufactures is a calculated effort to confuse consumers.
Let me back up for a moment and explain a little bit about the term “organic,” which can only be used if strict government guidelines are met first.
In order for you to use “organic” on your food-product packaging, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must be satisfied that your product has been produced without using most conventional pesticides or fertilizers that are made with sewage sludge or synthetic ingredients. Organic products cannot have been bioengineered or have received ionizing radiation. In addition, if what you’re selling is a dairy, meat, egg, or poultry product it has to be free of both growth hormones and antibiotics.
On the other hand, any old Joe can slap a “100-percent natural” label on his food and the FDA will say it’s fine as long as the product doesn’t have added color, artificial flavor, or other synthetic substances in it when it goes to market.
Not one of the strict guidelines that are attached to organic foods applies to foods labeled as “natural,” so it’s essentially left up to the manufacturers to decide if their product is worthy of the label or not. The label tells you nothing at all about how the food was grown.
The bottom line is terms like “all natural” and “100-percent natural” amount to little more than marketing schemes. It’s best to avoid products that use them and instead choose the ones labeled “organic.” Also, whenever possible, buy locally grown foods from small sustainable farms in your area.
Oh and if you’re at all in doubt about the empty claims behind a “natural” label, let me remind you that back in 2006 the makers of 7-Up were advertising their sodas as 100-percent natural.
Remember you should always be wary of half-truths because you might just end up grabbing the wrong half.
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