Natural Food - Is It? Is It Really?

By Nancy Smorch

Over the years, there has been a number of marketing gimmicks the food industry has used to fool the consumers (us) into thinking that the food they are producing is “natural."  I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me that what they are eating is good for them, because the label or package said it was “all natural."

And now, food companies are getting more creative in their packaging and marketing.  Even our own daughter, Frankie, was sucked into believing that a cereal she bought at the health food store would meet my approval, because, not only did the box say it was natural, but the packaging had a nice, natural, brown, paper bag/recycled look (or maybe she knew it wasn’t really natural and was hoping I would be fooled!)  Genius move on the company’s part (and Frankie should never underestimate me - I ended up throwing the cereal out!).

But, once again, please don’t be fooled by all of this!  Food companies will go to great lengths to take advantage of the ignorance of the consumer.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to see through all of the deceptions and marketing which only tells a small part of the product's story.

The most misused term in food marketing is the word “natural." But, thanks to a reminder by Marion Nestle (if you haven’t heard of her, you need to put her on your radar - click here for her site) that I received this morning, I decided to revisit what the word “natural” really means, and how it is allowed to be used.

First, let’s look at the definition of natural.  It is assumed that if a product is natural that the foods are minimally processed and contain no manufactured ingredients.

However, if you look at the definition by the FDA, it’s extremely vague:

“From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances (source: FDA)."

However, I have seen claims of 100% natural foods, where the top ingredients are the ones that are predominately GMO (corn, soy, sugar beets).  Is this “natural?"  Not for me, how about you?

Watch the interview the Food Babe has with Lean Cuisine in reference to their claims of one of their 100% natural products.

What about natural flavoring?  That’s a confusing one!  Check out this video from 60 Minutes where they interview Givaudan, a Swiss company that produces all kinds of flavors that we experience in our foods.  You decide for yourself if that’s natural!

The next time you are at the store, look at all of the “natural” claims on the labels (even in the health food store), and then look at the ingredients - is it really from nature? More often then not, I bet you’ll find those products that really are natural and good for you don’t need to rely on the manipulative wording - the ingredients, taste, and health benefits speak for themselves.

Did I open another can of worms for you?

The fact of it is, we all need to wake up and start demanding better food for ourselves and our loved ones! This is just another piece of information we all need to be aware of, and acknowledge that we can't put our trust - or health - in the hands of the Food Industry.

We have to take back control of what we eat!