On The Word “Natural” — It May Not Mean What You Think

April 21, 2015  |  Class Actions

The word “natural” has a whole lot to do with the beauty and food industries; however, as health foods become more and more popular as “health supplements” in their own right, we thought it was appropriate to include a look at the real meaning behind the world “natural.”

The information below applies whether a vitamin or other medicinal supplement is marketed as natural, or whether it’s a food or beauty product that is being touted as “natural.” Even Starbucks is coming out with kale smoothies this year, so we think it’s about time we all started to learn how to decipher the truly healthy from the pseudo-health being marketed to us 24/7.

Maybe you are concerned about “natural” claims when they are tied to a fast food chain’s new product or a new packaged cereal. Unfortunately, you may be onto something, because, while natural may imply qualities like healthfulness, freshness or even organic or non-GMO, the truth is, “natural” is a word with sparse literal meaning in terms of food labeling. That’s because the FDA has not yet clearly defined everything that is and is not natural.  The FDA has said that it may be permissible for some food companies and marketers to claim that their food products are natural so long as their food products do not contain artificial flavors, colors or synthetic substances. For those of you who are interested in nutrition, you’ll know that a lack of artificial flavors, colors, or synthetic substances may be the bottom of the barrel in terms of healthfulness.

The labeling of certain products as “natural” is an example of a way that food companies and marketers today try to get away with promoting their foods in a light that might not be one hundred percent honest.

When companies start to make health claims that they can’t back up, or say that their products have items or qualities that they do not in fact have, they may be violating the law.

For example, it would be illegal for a company to say that their product is “natural” or “all natural” if it contained any of the FDA’s “No No’s” like synthetic ingredients or artificial food coloring. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for food companies and marketers to defy the FDA’s rules, and you may be apt to find some items in your grocery store today that claim “all natural” even though, after careful inspection of the ingredients list, you’d find words like: Aspartame, Sodium Nitrate or Yellow #6.

When companies try to deceive consumers or “over-sell” their products — saying that something is natural when it is anything but — they put everyone’s health at jeopardy. It’s hard enough trying to figure out how to feed our families on a tight budget and understand what’s true and not true about the latest health trends, but one thing is for sure: Real food, with as minimal packaging and processed ingredients and chemicals as possible, is what we should all strive for; and that will be a whole lot easier once companies stop deceiving consumers.

We encourage you to share this blog with the health-oriented people in your lives. Let’s stop wasting our dollars on deceptive marketing!

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