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“All Natural”

Natural. What does that mean? If it is your goal to live naturally, than you need to know just what natural means and what it does NOT mean. Since most of the articles on this site are going to be referring to things you eat or come into contact with your skin, let’s look at the definition for ‘natural’ in regards to food:

According to the Natural Ingredient Resource Center :

“While it is true that there is no official, U.S. government regulated definition for the term natural pertaining to the natural products industry, the FDA refers to natural ingredients as ‘ingredients extracted directly from plants or animal products as opposed to being produced synthetically.’

The USDA has a legal definition for ‘natural’, but it applies only to meat and poultry; ‘those products carrying the “natural” claim must not contain any artificial flavoring, color ingredients, chemical preservatives, or artificial or synthetic ingredients, and are only “minimally processed” defined by USDA as a process that does not fundamentally alter the raw product.’

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, which is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving only consumers, states; ‘Natural is a general claim that implies that the product or packaging is made from or innate to the environment and that nothing artificial or synthetic has been added. There is currently no standard definition for the term except for meat and poultry products. Unless otherwise specified, there is no organization independently certifying this claim. The producer or manufacturer decides whether to use the claim and is not free from its own self-interest.’

To put it plainly, unless what you are looking at is either meat or poultry, when you see the words ‘natural’ or ‘all natural’ it can mean almost anything and is technically up to the creative mind of the producer and marketing panel of whatever product you are looking at! The USDA only ‘refers to natural ingredients as…’ which means there is no legal definition of the word nor is there any third party to certify the validity of its claim in regards to the product unless it is meat or poultry.Theresa Marquez, Chief Marketing Executive for Organic Valley, had this to say in regards to ‘natural’ in her article entitled “The Natural Challenge to Organic”:

“In 1993, the FDA said simply, “[it] does not object to the use of the term [natural] on food labels provided it is used in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and the product contains no added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.” Some guidelines were written and enforced by retailers or cooperatives, but they, like the FDA statement, centered on what was put into food at the time of processing and had little to do with how the food was grown. The goal of a natural foods manufacturer was to eliminate the preservatives and additives that are so common in foods, such as potassium sorbate, red and yellow dyes, and a book full of additives, many of them giving cancer to rats in laboratories…

Enter the 21st century: “Natural” remains a loosely defined category differing depending on region, store and product, while “organic” now has strict, uniform, government-enforced regulations enacted by Congress in 1990…

The term natural has been criticized as “unregulated, overly manipulated and marketed,” and though there is a movement afoot to develop a specific definition for natural, in 2008 the FDA declined to define the term due to “limited resources,” standing by its vague 1993 statement. In the meantime, a handful of manufacturers use “affidavits,” which are not required to be third-party verified, as justification for their “natural” claim.”

Understanding this concept is crucial to being able to ‘live naturally.’  Once you understand this, you can start to sift through all those marketing techniques used to gain your trust and garner your hard earned money and begin to make smart, healthy choices for you and your family.

The next time you are in the store shopping for whatever it is that you need… just keep in mind, unless it’s meat or poultry, the word ‘natural’ means nothing. It could mean that ‘the product contains no added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances’ but it not legally defined to mean that. Your best bet is to either stick with what you know by reading the ingredients or if you can afford it, look for the “Certified Organic” logo.

If you would like to read more in depth information in regards to ‘natural’, check out the Natural Ingredient Resource Center.


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  1. […] Today, I want to send you over to my friend Sarah at How To Live Natural. She wrote a great article a while back that really delves into the ambiguity surrounding some of the marketing terms used […]

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