In the world of food marketing, perception is everything. Consumers want foods that sound wholesome, friendly, and above all “natural” – although they are rarely able to articulate what this means.
And they are not alone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to establish a formal definition for the term 'natural' on food labels but follows a 1993 policy that states: “[FDA] has not objected 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 does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.”
But this has not cleared everything up. What about modified starch, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, ingredients extracted with organic solvents, high fructose corn syrup or genetically engineered foods or a string of other substances that can be found on the ‘unacceptable ingredients’ lists of companies such as Whole Foods Market?
Many people have argued persuasively that trying to define natural is a fool’s errand. But others believe it should be pinned down regardless because if two companies are using the same term on their food labels, it should mean the same thing.
What do you think? Do we need a more precise definition of 'natural' to ensure it is used more consistently in food labeling and marketing?
And if so, who should drive this initiative? The FDA? Or industry associations such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute, or the Natural Products Association (which has already developed a Natural Seal certification scheme for home and personal care and is working on a similar initiative for foods)?
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