Monthly magazine Consumer Reports has started a campaign to rid food labels of the word “natural” following a survey that found significant confusion over the term’s meaning. The Consumer Reports National Research Center, which conducts the research published in the magazine, conducted a phone survey of 1,000 people and asked them about their understanding of the use of “natural” on a food label and what they think it should mean.
The center reportedly found that “[a]bout two-thirds believe [“natural”] means a processed food has no artificial ingredients, pesticides, or genetically modified organisms, and more than 80 percent believe that it should mean those things.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines suggest that manufacturers can use the term if nothing artificial or synthetic has been added to their products, but the definitions are vague and flexible, Consumer Reports argues. “We want to clean up the green noise in the food label marketplace so Americans can get what they want—truthful labels that represent important and better food production systems,” said Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Executive Director Urvashi Rangan. The organization has partnered with TakePart, a social media platform, to create a petition to push the government to prevent manufacturers from using “natural.” See Consumer Reports, June 16, 2014.