A typical trip down the aisle of your favorite grocery store greets you with labels proclaiming “All Natural”, “100% Natural”, “Low Fat”, “Gluten Free”, “Organic”, and so much more.
It is so easy to get overwhelmed, and drawn in by the labels; after all, that is the manufacturer’s goal. But, do you know what the wording on labels, and in advertisements really mean?
The word “Organic” is classified and defined by the FDA. Foods have to meet a particular standard, grown and processed in a particular way, in order to be able to advertise as “organic”. However, the FDA does not define or classify the word “natural” or the phrase “all natural”.
Scary huh? When given the choice between almond butter “A”, whose label reads “all natural” or almond butter “B” that doesn’t have any proclamations on the label – which do you choose?
The majority of us that are concerned for our health and wellness select the product with the “all natural” label. The truth is it is nothing more than a marketing ploy; in reality, it does not mean it is any healthier than almond butter “B”. What is important is to read the labels for nutrition information, and the ingredient list.
Ingredients Watch List
- Nitrates (sometimes referred to “Nitrities”)
- Potassium Sorbate
- Sodium Benzoate
- Calcium Carbonate
- Distilled Monoglycerides
- Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
- Sodium Hexametaphosphate
- Artificial Flavors
- Natural Flavors
Of course, that is just a small snapshot of ingredients to watch out for. To avoid preservatives and dyes, select foods with ingredients you can pronounce, with as few ingredients as possible.
“Natural flavors” appears on so many ingredient labels, it is difficult to know where to begin. But do you really know what a “natural flavor” is? In reality, this term can even be used on MSG products.
All-Natural claims have no universal base standards.
- All-Natural CAN USE pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides
- All-Natural CAN USE chemical fertilizers
- All-Natural CAN USE High Fructose Corn Syrup
- All-Natural CAN USE hydrogenated oils
- All-Natural CAN USE artificial preservatives
- All-Natural CAN USE Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)!
Isn’t The FDA Supposed To Regulate This Stuff?
Most of us assume they are… According to the FDA’s website:
“The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, quality, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines, and other biological products and medical devices. The FDA is also responsible for the safety and security of most of our nation’s food supply, all cosmetics, dietary supplements and products that give off radiation.”
Food labeling is tricky business. Manufacturers do have several requirements to meet prior to food being allowed on grocery store shelves. However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t ample confusion to go around.
To read the guidelines the FDA provides to food manufacturers, read the FDA Food Labeling Guide — Guidance For Industry. While overly filled with detail for most consumers, those that are concerned about the foods they eat, this is an invaluable resource.
There is a shortfall in food labeling; do not be swayed by the marketing ploys of food manufacturers and distributors. Contact your congressional representative and encourage them to have “natural” defined and classified. In the meantime, do your research, read the labels, and make the best choice for you and your family.