We see the word “natural” at every turn. Health organizations and food makers love this word. They tell us that natural is our signal that certain food is healthy and good for us.
You may believe this yourself. After all, you see natural listed on product labels all the time. But what does natural actually mean?
Consumer Reports magazine warns that natural can be a very misleading word. Some are calling on the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to ban the word’s use on food labels.
Now, it’s unlikely that manufacturers will put the word “unnatural” on a product. Yet foods described as natural can be healthy, unhealthy, or have no effect on you at all.
By the way, the FDA has yet to come up with a hard and fast definition of natural on a label. Other modern countries are facing the same challenge.
So, for years manufacturers have had no problem slapping the natural label on food. Some of it is actually unhealthy.
If the “Natural” Labeling Process Seems Confusing To You, You Are Not Alone
Let’s look at a recent survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center*. 60% of the 1,000 shoppers questioned said they look for the word natural on labels. 66% believe natural means no artificial ingredients, genetically modified organisms, or pesticides. Yet there are no mandatory disclosures that allow foods to carry the word natural.
You can see where this is going. No hard and fast rules for natural as it applies to food can assume too much trust. With that in mind, what steps can you take to be confident that your food is natural?
A good starting point is to contact the manufacturer. It may take some time, but get someone on the phone. Ask some hard questions. Get the name of the person you’re talking to. Ask him or her to send any and all relevant information to you via snail mail or e-mail.
The contact person may tell you such information is “proprietary.” That they’re not allowed to tell you. Consider this a red flag.
Also, keep in mind that food with tons of sugar and calories may actually be natural. But that doesn’t make them healthy.
The bottom line? Stay away from packaged foods wherever possible. Eat whole foods. More fruits and vegetables than processed items.
Take the steps to ensure that you’re getting more natural and healthy foods. After all, you and your family are worth the effort!
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