If you’re still confused by the words “natural,” “all natural” and “100% natural” on food packaging, you’re not alone. Many consumers equate the word “natural” with “organic” and some even mistakenly believe that “100% Natural” is better than certified organic.
A 2014 Consumer Reports poll found that 66 percent of consumers believe a product labeled “natural” has no artificial ingredients, pesticides or genetically modified organisms, and 86 percent believe that it should mean those things.
There’s a big difference between a certified “organic” product and a “natural” product. Food products can be labeled “organic” only if they’re independently certified as meeting U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program standards.
But with the exception of meat and poultry, there is no legal definition of “natural” as it applies to food.
That means food companies can slap the words “natural” on products containing all kinds of ingredients you wouldn’t think of as natural—including chemicals like glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller. And they do—because they know consumers seek out “natural” foods, believing them to be healthier.
It’s arguably the biggest labeling scam in the food industry. That’s why we’ve been using a combination of product testing and lawsuits to expose companies for misleading consumers with deceptive labels and/or advertising.
We recently settled one of those lawsuits: You’ll no longer see the word “natural” on a box of Post Shredded Wheat.
Lawsuits aren’t the perfect solution. We’d rather companies go organic and regenerative. But until they do, we’ll keep pressuring them to stop deceiving consumers.