Investigating the "Natural" Label
We've all seen the word "Natural" on food labels. But assuming that it means that the product is, or was, organic in nature when processed, or at least unchanged by human hands, is, more often than not, not a good idea. These days the word "Natural" can mean a whole slew of things, and most of them have nothing whatsoever to do with existing in nature in a natural state.
When Natural is not Natural
Given a choice, many consumers prefer to consume foodstuffs made of natural ingredients. So when a company posts Natural or No MSG or No Added MSG, it's understandable that consumers might get a little excited. But what consumers don't know is that the word "Natural" is being used as both a trademark and as a means of duping the public into believing something that often is not true.
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors meat and poultry for artificial coloring and ingredients and to ensure meats are processed as minimally as possible, most of the processed foods on the market today are not regulated. Such spotty regulations have left the door wide open for miscommunication, misleading packaging, and false advertising.
Often the word "Natural" is used in this manner: Natural chicken broth added.Since we don't know anything about the chicken other than the company's claim, we still do not now what exactly they mean by natural.
We also cannot trust the label that says made with such and such ingredients. If the label says "made with whole wheat" but the ingredients list does not start with "whole wheat" you can bet the claim is false.
While the government has not yet taken a hard stand on the "natural" label, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is stepping up to the plate.
The FDA has taken its stand on the words "plus," "good source of," and "extra." When these words appear on the label, the FDA states that the food must contain a minimum of 10 percent of the daily value of the particular nutrient or ingredient mentioned.
Unfortunately, the phrase "No Added MSG" does not always mean there is no MSG in the product, either. In fact, according to the FDA, if the ingredients list includes hydrolyzed protein of any type and the food label contains the phrase(s) "No MSG," "No Added MSG," and "No MSG Added" the label is both false and misleading and should be reported.
Uncovering the Truth
Because the EPA considers MSG to be a naturally occurring product, all processed MSG is considered natural by the EPA. Since this claim is entirely false, it's important that consumers become their own advocates. To discover whether or not a product has any MSG in it, be thorough and follow these steps:
- Write to the company and ask about a specific product (give the complete product name, as well as the size of the package).
- Ask if the following ingredients are in the product: MSG, monosodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed pea protein, carrageenan, sodium caseinatge, or enzymes (all either are MSG or create MSG during processing).