Consumers Confused About “Natural” and “Organic” Food Labels
According to a recent Orlando Sentinel article, consumers do not understand the difference between food products labeled as “natural,” which, for the most part, is an unregulated term, and those labeled “organic,” which carries extensive government regulation and requires certification. Some food producers are apparently taking advantage of consumers’ mistaken belief that “natural” is a greener term than “organic”; the natural food market reportedly grew 10 percent between 2007 and 2008 to $12.9 billion. Foods labeled “natural” are generally sold for less than those labeled “organic,” and producers can and do create their own definitions for what is “natural.” The article outlines the different rules applying to organic and natural food products. See Orlando Sentinel, September 29, 2009.
In a related development, the French agency responsible for regulating competition and fraud has reportedly issued a note establishing requirements for foods sold as “naturel.” The document was apparently prepared for inspectors who control food claims. According to the agency, this designation should be used on food products sold in their natural state and subject to mechanical changes only, such as peeling, slicing, drying, or pressing. Products that have undergone cooking, fermentation, pressurization, or roasting, may apparently be labeled “of natural origin.” The ingredients of composite products must follow these rules and conform to the definitions, and no flavorings or additives may be used.
While “naturel” and “d’origine naturel” may be used to describe additives and flavorings in France, these products are regulated by separate legislation and are not covered by this document. The Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and Fighting Fraud, which prepared the note, reportedly took the divergent views of consumers, professionals and industry associations into account, but warned that the document does not represent the views of all stakeholders. See Foodnavigatorusa.com, September 29, 2009.