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A discussion of the confusion surrounding "natural" foods

Natural foodIf you've ever wondered how an organic food item differs from a natural food item, you've got good company. This weekend in the San Francisco Chronicle, nutrition and public policy expert Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, of New York University, addressed a reader's question related to food labels and how they could be changed to make them easier to understand.

Nestle discusses the the complexity and controversy that surround food labels on her blog, Food Politics, and offers some ideas on how they could be changed for the better in her Chronicle column, Food Matters (subscription required).

From her blog post:

While “natural” does not necessarily mean “healthy” or even “healthier,” it works splendidly as a marketing term and explains why many junk-food manufacturers are switching from expensive organic ingredients to those they can market as “natural.”

The FDA isn’t fixing this situation because, according to a statement in response to a petition by Center for Science in the Public Interest, it’s “not an enforcement priority.”

Manufacturers of highly processed foods could not be happier with this nondecision.

In her blog, Nestle noted that people often use "organic" and "natural" interchangeably. She wrote, "if the public really can’t tell the difference between “natural” and “organic,” the closer the definition of “natural” is to that of “organic,” the less confused they will be."

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: Want kids to eat their veggies? Researchers suggest labeling foods with snazzy namesWill redesigning food labels help consumers revamp their eating habits? Organic vs. natural: Tips for parents who want to go green“Natural” or not, chicken nuggets are high in fat, sodium and Study finds fast-food menu calorie counts confusing for consumers
Photo by qmnonic

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