‘Natural’ Food Labels Confuse Consumers, Advocates Say

Consumer rights advocates have called the government officials to peel back "natural" food labels for misleading consumers. They said that the term was not clearly defined and regulated by any agency.

A recent survey conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center revealed that 62 percent of consumers are environmentally and socially conscious when it comes to the food they eat. These consumers would usually purchase products with a "natural" food label, with the assumption that these were produced without pesticides, artificial ingredients, organisms or hormones.

Because of these findings, Consumer Reports has petitioned the FDA and USDA to ban the use of "natural' food labels. "Ideally, we'd like to see federal regulators ban the natural label, but if they don't get rid of it, then they must give it real meaning," Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety & Sustainability Center, said in an article of their website.

"For foods regulated by the FDA, we believe the 'natural' label should be reserved for foods that are organic and contain no artificial ingredients," Rangan added. "We also believe verification should be required to ensure that foods labeled 'natural' truly meet that definition, like the process currently used for the term 'organic'."

Consumer reports cited various products including "Del Monte Fruit Naturals" which contains artificial preservatives, 'Kraft Natural Cheese' which includes cellulose powder and '100% Natural Wesson Vegetable Oil' which possesses genetically modified ingredients. The FDA has responded to the petition by asking public comment.

"That word pulls you in and makes you feel like for some reason that's a better food," Jane Maynard, a San Diego resident who blogs about healthy meal preparations, told NBC News. "Everything says 'All Natural', right? So that doesn't really tell you anything."

Moreover, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has opposed to the petition for food labeling changes. They also filed a petition to the FDA arguing that the agency should continue to allow the use of "natural" labels on products containing genetically modified organisms.

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