Monday, October 13, 2014

“Natural” food label called meaningless

Consumer Reports magazine in the United States says the “natural” label on food is meaningless.

Typically consumers think it means the food has no artificial flavouring or colouring and that it contains no genetically-modified ingredients.

None of that is true, says Consumer Reports. But it is partially true in Canada.

Because the label means nothing, yet misleads so many people, Consumer Reports has launched a petition to have “natural” banned from food labels.

In May, Kellogg’s stopped using “all natural” on its Kashi cereal labels as part of an out-of-court settlement of a class-action lawsuit.

There are some rules in Canada.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says that foods can only be represented as natural if they have never contained an added vitamin, nutrient, artificial flavour or food additive.

The food also needs to be in its original form and can’t have been processed significantly.

But companies are allowed to use a “natural ingredients” label in cases where products contain some natural ingredients.

Carly Weeks of the Globe and Mail writes that “this could easily give consumers the false impression that all ingredients in the product are natural.

“And consumers should also keep in mind that ‘natural’ ingredients aren’t necessarily an indication of their nutritional value.

“A product made with all-natural ingredients can contain high amounts of fat, sugar and/or sodium, which can lead to health problems if consumed in excess,” Weeks writes.