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3 in 4 Americans Misled by 'Natural' Food Labels

3 in 4 Americans Misled by 'Natural' Food Labels
(Copyright DPC)

By    |   Tuesday, 10 May 2016 03:21 PM

The vast majority of consumers — 73 percent — seek out foods labeled as “natural” when shopping for groceries, even though the term carries no weight and has no meaning under current government guidelines, according to a new Consumer Reports survey.

In other words, food manufacturers can use the term to describe virtually food product, including processed items loaded with artificial additives, chemicals, pesticides, and other manmade ingredients. By contrast, far fewer consumers — 58 percent — seek out the “organic label,” which is actually meaningful and backed by hundreds of pages of standards.

The magazine’s editors noted a 2014 CR survey found 59 percent of consumers looked for the “natural label” and 49 percent looked for “organic” — “highlighting the need for immediate government action to prevent consumers from being misled.”

“Given this overwhelming consumer confusion, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] needs to act now to stop the misleading use of the ‘natural’ label,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety & Sustainability Center.

“Ideally, the word should be banned from food packaging. If the agency does not ban, it should establish a highly meaningful standard that is in line with consumer expectations for ‘natural’ foods — that they be produced according to the government’s standards for organic food and that they do not contain artificial ingredients.  And any claim should be independently verified to ensure it is true.”

Consumer Reports first petitioned the FDA in 2014 to ban the word “natural” on food labels. This year, the organization submitted a detailed petition with nearly 250,000 comments and a letter signed by 19 organizations, demanding that the FDA ban or establish meaningful standards for the term in food labeling.

In addition to uncovering consumer misconceptions about “natural” food labels, the new CR survey found numerous discrepancies between consumer expectations and reality when it comes to food regulation, safety, and genetically engineered foods. Among them:
  • Two-thirds of shoppers falsely believe the natural label means more than it does — that such foods are free of chemical additives, pesticides, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
  • Nearly half incorrectly believe that natural claims on labels have been independently verified.
  • 77 percent mistakenly believe that the FDA evaluates or determines the safety of food ingredients.
  • 66 percent erroneously believe that the FDA keeps track of new ingredients introduced on the food market.
  • 86 percent believe that genetically engineered foods should be labeled before being sold.
“Our survey shows that the FDA is letting consumers down in important areas around food production and labeling,” said Rangan. “Consumers need to feel confident in the food that they buy, prepare, and feed to their families. The FDA must do more to ensure the food on grocery store shelves holds up to consumer expectations.”

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The vast majority of consumers seek out foods labeled as 'natural' when shopping for groceries, even though the term carries no weight and has no meaning under current government guidelines, according to a new Consumer Reports survey.
natural, food, labels, misleading
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2016-21-10
Tuesday, 10 May 2016 03:21 PM
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