"Natural" is the newest, hottest term in the food industry, but technically this term doesn't mean much.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). FSIS is responsible for ensuring that commercial supplies of meat, poultry, and egg products are safe and correctly labeled and packaged. FSIS does recognize the term natural, with regards to meat and poultry products.
FSIS notes that any product labeled as natural cannot contain artificial ingredient or added color and the product can only be minimally processed. FSIS further notes that "Minimal processing" means that a food product can be processed, but only in such a way that the product is, "Not fundamentally altered."
If a company wishes to label a food product as natural, the label is required to include a statement that explains the term, such as, "no artificial ingredients" or "zero artificial colors" or "minimally processed."
Problems with the term natural include:
- The term is unregulated.
- The term has the ability to confuse consumers who may think they're getting a safer or healthier product, or worse an organic product.
- The term is incorrect in that "naturally" labeled products may contain synthetic ingredients.
Keep in mind that the term natural is in no way related to organic. Certified organic food must adhere to strict guidelines, while natural food does not have to follow any across the board standards.