all natural

Major food companies from Kellogg’s and Campbell’s soup to Whole Foods Market have been sued over “all natural” label claims. Now, Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center wants the term, and any variations of it, banned.

According to the organization, nearly 60 percent of consumers look for “all natural” label claims when shopping for food. They also believe that it means there are no artificial ingredients, harmful chemical pesticides or genetically modified organisms in the product. But that’s not the case, says Consumer Reports.

“The reality is that the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t developed a formal definition for the term,” the group said in a statement. “Our findings show consumers expect much more from the ‘natural’ food label,” says Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Center at Consumer Reports. “It’s misleading, confusing, and deceptive.”

Consumers continue to take misleading claims about their food products seriously. Even Whole Foods Market has recently been called out for misuse of the “all natural” label claim. The chain is currently being sued over muffins sold as “natural” when they contained artificial ingredients. PepsiCo’s Naked Juice division recently agreed to a $9 million settlement over the claim on juice and smoothie products that contained artificial and genetically modified ingredients.

“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,” Rangan says. “Our new campaign promotes credible labels that underscore a more sustainable system and will decode phony labels that cloud the marketplace.”

In a campaign partnership with the website TakePart, Consumer Reports is calling on the FDA in a petition to ban “natural” from food product claims. TakePart and Consumer Reports will also be launching a series exploring food labeling concerns called “Know your food, know your labels.”

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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