As consumers, we’ve come to believe foods labeled “natural” are healthy and wholesome. We’ve been led to view them as nutritious, good food choices that are healthy for us to eat. The reality is very different from that perception. Who has control over disclosure in this case, what does “natural” food really mean and what do consumers think it means?
The Food and Drug Administration has jurisdiction over the labeling of food. Currently, there’s no regulation or oversight for what constitutes “natural” food. The FDA has a broad definition for what can be called “natural” in the food world, which allows food producers to trick the consumer into thinking they’re making healthy choices when they choose foods labeled “natural”.
The reality is that “natural” can mean anything. Natural foods can be processed foods which contain real natural ingredients that have been processed into artificial ingredients. Natural foods may contain ingredients that are derived from plants that have been grown from GMO seeds and have been treated with nasty stuff like pesticides and chemicals processed with synthetic solvents.
Meat and poultry (including eggs) labeled as “natural” can come from animals that were fed GMO corn and soy, given antibiotics and other drugs, given artificial growth hormones, and that were raised in confined quarters in a factory farm environment. This confined environment raises the stress in the animals, and produces increased levels of cortisol in the meat. Cortisol raises the levels of inflammation in the body which promotes disease and premature aging; these increased levels of cortisol are passed on to you when you eat this meat and poultry.
Consumers believe that “natural” should mean something very different and should be a term they can trust when making decisions as to what food to buy. According to the results of a recent consumer survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, U.S. consumers believe that the “natural” label on food means they can trust that no chemicals were used during processing, no toxic pesticides were used, no artificial ingredients or colors were used, and no GMOs were used. The buying public also thinks it means, relative to meat and poultry products, that the animal was not given growth hormones or antibiotics and other drugs, and that their feed did not contain genetically engineered organisms and artificial ingredients.
The buying public is being fooled for profit, and unlike the “organic” label, which is regulated and verified by the United States Department of Agriculture, there are no restrictions on how the animals were raised or what can go into foods labeled “natural.”