What Does "Natural" Mean On Food?

UNDATED -- When it comes to food, not just the packaging, what does the word "natural" mean to you?

Consumer Reports did a survey and most shoppers thought "natural" means free of drugs, antibiotics, GMO's, or artificial ingredients. Natural doesn't mean any of those things officially. The word "natural" isn't defined by the Food & Drug Administration.

But you'll see it on all kinds of foods. So how do you change that? Consumer Reports is hoping you will join them in petitioning the FDA to define the word "natural" or force companies to drop it altogether to stop the confusion.

Both the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture allow food producers to use the word "natural" on labels as long as nothing artificial or synthetic has been added "that would not normally be expected to be in the food" under an informal policy FDA put into place in 1993.

When the FDA asked for comments on whether it should officially define the term, "one company argued that prohibition of 'natural' would be an unconstitutional restrict on free speech," the agency said in a Federal Register notice on Jan. 6, 1993.

In the end, the agency decided not to define the term "natural" or to prohibit its use.


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