What Your Food Label Really Means…

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Do you spend extra time and money to purchase “all natural” foods, in hopes of fueling your body with only the best ingredients?
If you fit in this category… Congrats! You are amongst the 60% of people that say they look for the term “natural” on food labels (according to a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center).
About two-thirds of people surveyed said that they believed that “natural” means that there are no artificial ingredients, pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). However… the FDA has not developed a true definition of the term for food labels and they won’t object to the claim that something is natural, as long as there are no artificial or synthetic ingredients in a product. This leaves a huge gray area for the term natural and is therefore misguiding consumers.

For marketing industries and food companies, they love how the term can be so universal, and placed on nearly any product. Meanwhile, it is important to break this stereotype for the consumer and to develop a better understanding of what natural really means in terms of our food labels and ingredients.
Unfortunately, people are misled by the term on their food labels. According to Urvashi Rangan, the executive director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Center at Consumer Reports, natural can practically be placed on any package or label, it does not mean very much.
In an essence, it is a scam, a way to pull people in but it is working. It is also important to note that just because something is “natural” does not necessarily mean that it is good for you. The term natural does not discriminate against foods that are high in sugar, sodium or calories. Natural foods can also contain GMOs, antibiotics, other chemicals and they are not necessarily organic, grass-fed or free-range.
So… when you are grocery shopping, take a look at the ingredient list. The shorter the list, the better. You should be able to recognize the ingredients and steer clear of added chemicals or flavoring. Also, shop organic.
While the term natural on a food label has very little regulation, foods labeled as organic must consist of at least 95% organically produced ingredients and the other 5% must be approved on the national list provided by the USDA (unless the label states that it is 100% organic!). They also cannot be produced with antibiotics, GMOs, pesticides, petroleum or sewage-sludge based fertilizers and more… Organic producers go through an extensive certification process and are thoroughly inspected, so you can be sure that any food labeled as organic is a safe bet!
On a side note, free range or cage free means that animals cannot be contained in any way and must be allowed to roam free over a large area of open land but this labeling is not regulated to the same extent that organic labeling is.

Have you ever fallen into the trap of purchasing “all natural”, in hopes of getting a better product? Do you feel as though there should be tighter regulations on all food labeling? Share your thoughts below!

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