Does “Natural” Mean Anything?

By Kristy Preble

As the green movement gathers momentum, an increasing amount of people seek to implement healthy food choices into their diets. This consciousness is so widespread that food companies have used the name of environmentalism to take advantage of their consumers. They profit by introducing the word “natural” into their product’s description, which has a significant impact on the increase of purchases. According to The Wall Street Journal “51% of Americans seek out ‘all natural’ when food shopping.”

When consumers find the word “natural” on a desired product it’s connotation is with healthy, unmanipulated products that are directly from the earth. This term makes consumers feel comfortable purchasing food products that in actuality are loosely using the term. Because the FDA has not defined the word or put regulations on its use, these food products could contain added colors, artificial flavors, synthetic substances and many other things. Thus leading consumers in the opposite direction of what they set out to accomplish.

The lack of regulation on this very stimulating word could wreak unknown havoc on well-meaning environmentalists. Consumers are seeking to tap into a market that is unlike the unsustainable, unjust conventional system. Supporting organic production can be difficult when facing the price of most of the products. The harsh price gap between conventional products and certified organic products is cushioned by the “natural” products, with costs just above unlabeled products and just below organic products. So, when “natural” products are bought the consumer feels as if they’ve used their dollar wisely to vote in favor of the healthy food movement. This is an example of conventional food companies profiting off of a deceived population. Thus harming the organic food market and further decreasing the ability for certifiable organic products to be more reasonably priced.

If consumers wish to make truly impactful choices they can research the products they habitually buy or they can start using apps to assist them with their choices. Starting with this nutritionist’s top ten list of most useful healthy eating apps.  This list of apps includes considerations for identifying unknown chemicals in an ingredient list, how to eat seasonally, and where to find healthy food choices nearby. If using applications is not ideal there are other ways to adjust to finding genuinely healthy food choices. Familiarizing oneself with the different organic labels is a good start. It also helps to know what other buzzwords that have no meaning or regulation behind them, for instance “artisan” or “cage-free” . Being diligent in research will always progress the environmentally and ethically minded eating movement.

It is difficult to distinguish between genuine environmental and health minded efforts. However, to influence the betterment of our health and the direction of the environmental movement we must be active in researching and spreading information. Introduce others to the production and consumption of organic food movement.

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