When Natural Isn’t

Dear Living Well Daily Reader,

A couple of months back, we asked you what was most frustrating or confusing about reading food labels when grocery shopping.

And for the majority of you, there was a clear consensus: the use of the words “natural” or “all-natural.”

What does it mean? Does it actually mean anything? Is it regulated? Can I trust it?

These were some of your concerns, and rightfully so. “Natural” is plastered on everything from, obviously, natural foods like baby carrots to very questionable foods like Cheetos:

If you plant a natural Cheeto, will it grow?

So first of all, let’s set one thing straight: There’s no regulatory rule for use of the term “natural” on foods other than meat.

That means companies can pretty much make up how they define the use of the word.

The FDA does have an informal policy on what they consider to be appropriate use of the word, though they can’t strictly enforce it. They consider the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic has been included or added to the food.

The USDA requires that any meat labelled “natural” cannot contain any artificial ingredients and must be minimally processed. However, they don’t give any guidelines on what “minimally processed” means.

Pretty bare bones.

Soon, the FDA may establish a formal definition and policy for what “natural” means. And in just a minute, I’ll tell you how you can give the FDA a piece of your mind as to what that definition should be.

But first, let’s make clear what natural is not. Here’s what “natural” does not mean:

  • It does not mean the food was grown without pesticides or herbicides
  • It does not mean the food is organic
  • It does not mean that there is nothing added to the food
  • It does not mean the food has not been processed in some way
  • It does not mean that the meat was raised without hormones or antibiotics
  • It does not mean the animals were raised humanely
  • It does not mean that the food is non-GMO.

So for all intents and purposes, if you see a food labelled as “natural” and it comes in any sort of box or package, be wary. Truly natural foods won’t come in a box, and with the exception of meats or things like baby carrots, they won’t be in any sort of package.

And you already know the drill: Choose fresh, local, and organic whenever you can. Avoid processed foods, and look for meats that have been raised without antibiotics and hormones.

Those are the basics.

(And I promise we’re still fervently working on our shopping guide to help guide you with the nuances of food product labelling.)

But for now, we have the chance to tell FDA how we want “natural” to be defined, as they are accepting public comments starting on Nov. 12.

Here’s what they want to know:

-Whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural”

-If so, how the agency should define “natural”

-How the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels.

What do I think? At the bare minimum, a food labelled natural:

-Should be non-GMO

-Should not have anything artificial added to it

-If meat, should not contain antibiotics or hormones.

But that’s just me.

What do you think? Tell ’em!

To submit comments to the FDA, visit http://www.regulations.gov and type “FDA-2014-N-1207” in the search box.

To living well,

Jasmine LeMaster
Health Researcher

View More Free Articles

The Hidden Heart Danger LURKING in Your Gut?

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, Living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is no walk in the park. The cramping, the urgency, the endless trips to the bathroom—it’s a daily struggle that can leave you exhausted and frustrated. And here’s the kicker: sometimes, IBD’s vague symptoms can lead to misdiagnosis or even NO diagnosis at all....

Read This

Has the Key to Unlocking Better MS Treatments Been Found?

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, Imagine waking up one morning and feeling a strange tingling in your fingers. You brush it off, thinking it’s just a pinched nerve. But then, your vision starts to blur, and your balance is thrown off. Suddenly, you’re faced with a terrifying reality: you have multiple sclerosis (MS). For the...

Read This

6 Secret Ways to Spot HIDDEN Processed Foods

“Avoid eating processed foods,”—If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. The reason why is simple. These Frankenfoods are designed to satisfy your taste buds. But they leave your body full of foreign chemicals that can cause harm and in need of more nutrients. But a patient asked me the other day,...

Read This

8 Red Flags There’s a Heart Attack in YOUR Future

Humor me and count to 40. Done? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States just had a heart attack. That adds up to around 805,000 people a year. Many of those were a “silent” heart attack, with the victim having no clue it even happened—and they go...

Read This

Mailbag! Neuropathy Pain? Ease Tingling in Hands and Feet

“I’m diabetic and have burning, tingling pain in my feet. My doctor says it is peripheral neuropathy, and there aren’t any cures. But do you have any tips to help me deal with it?” —Hank Hi Hank, Uncontrolled blood sugar can trigger nerve pain called peripheral neuropathy. This condition causes pain and numbness, usually in...

Read This

5 Often Overlooked Diabetes Red Flags

Some of the worst diseases we face are also the stealthiest. They silently sneak up with few signs that they’re harming us from the inside. Well, that is until it’s too late, and they’re well-established. Osteoporosis and hypertension are on that list. And so is type 2 diabetes. In fact, scientists estimate that around 25...

Read This

ALERT: CGMs Can Give Inaccurate Glucose Readings

Keeping your blood sugar in check is critical for a longer, healthier life. It used to be if you wanted to watch your blood sugar for hours at a time, you’d have to go to a lab and be hooked up to an expensive, complicated machine. But now, anyone can get a continuous glucose monitor...

Read This

“Eat the Rainbow” Trick Drives Down Cancer Risk

If I were to ask you, “What’s the color of good health?” what would you say? Maybe it’s green or blue, the “colors of nature.” Or rosy pink cheeks may come to mind. Well, it turns out the “colors of the rainbow” might be the best answer. Research suggests the key to a long, healthy...

Read This

Unexpected Danger LURKS in Your Drinking Glass

I’ve said it so often I’m in danger of sounding like a broken record. (For those folks old enough to remember them.) But this habit is such a threat to your health it’s STILL worth the risk. One of the WORST things you can swallow is sweetened beverages—made with natural and fake sugars. They’ve already...

Read This

Are Fitness Watches WORTH the Expense?

I wear a fitness tracker. A patient pointed to it the other day and asked me if it was worth the expense. It caught me off guard at first. But then I explained, “It depends…” I personally enjoy wearing a fitness tracker because I like tracking my exercise. And it helps keep me motivated. These...

Read This