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Food Trends

ConsumerReports wants to ban misleading 'natural' food labeling


Take a closer at that all natural food label. (iStock)

Americans are buying ‘natural’ food products in droves but it turns out that doesn’t necessarily mean foods are any healthier—or free of preservatives.

According to ConsumerReports ShopSmart, the Food and Drug Administration does not adequately define the term, which means a manufacturer can slap a “natural” label on a product that still contains artificial additives.

The consumer advocacy group is now calling for a ban on the term natural, which it claims causes confusion about a products true components.

Misleading terms include:

    “Made with Natural Ingredients”

    “Naturally Flavored”

    “Naturally Brewed”

For example, Kikkoman soy sauce can claim that is “naturally brewed” but still contains sodium benzonate, a synthetic preservative. Crystal Light Natural Lemonade seems like a healthful choice but the drink mix contains a host of laboratory-made ingredients like maltodextrin, artificial coloring agents and BHA, a synthetic preservative.

In 1991, the FDA did try to come up with a more precise standard, but failed after two years calling it "too complex."   The problem is that many foods have usually been processed or altered in some way and so it's difficult to draw a clear line.

So what can health conscious consumers do?  Take the time to really read a product's full ingredients. And a good rule of thumb is if you cannot pronounce anything on the labels, it is probably not healthy.