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How Natural is Natural Food?

In the 2007 World Almanac, we added a section on Food Label Claims (pg. 151) to better explain what organic, free-range, and other such claims mean. This is one of my favorite sections to research. I'm very concerned about what I put into my body and I'm extremely skeptical of food labels, especially ones that make it seem like the products came straight from the Garden of Eden. One particularly dubious label is “natural,” which the USDA defined back in 1982. Basically, it means that the product doesn’t contain any artificial ingredient or color and has been “minimally processed.” Minimal processing, which applies mostly to meat and poultry, is defined as “nothing done to fundamentally alter the raw products.”

Since they first set down those "guidelines," however, there have been many new additives and processes developed that are used to enhance flavor and preserve food (such as the use of chlorine to clean meat, or the injection of salt water for flavor, both of which can be used in producing “natural” products). So the USDA is taking up the issue. According to this release, the USDA will begin hearings on the what should and shouldn’t be allowed under the food claim “natural.” Putting together new guidelines for these terms takes a lot of time and research, so we probably won’t see this resolved for a while.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 6, 2006 1:30 PM.

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