Three years ago, Frito-Lay made their junk food less junky by removing artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, and monosodium glutamate (MSG). The company put prominent labels on Tostitos, Lay’s Chips, and SunChips boasting that the products were “All Natural.”
If you looked at a bag of those chips on the store shelf today, you wouldn’t see that label. Why? Doesn’t that label appeal to consumers? It does, but over the past couple of years as consumers have become more aware of the fact that foods labeled all natural can contain genetically modified organisms, some consumers have felt duped.
In 2009, 30.4 percent of new food products and 45.5 percent of new beverage products released in the U.S. were labeled all natural. This year, 21.1 percent of new food products and 34 percent of new beverage products carried that label.
The big problem here is that the FDA has no official definition for the label “all natural.” The FDA’s website says it does not object to the label on food if the product does not have “added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”
Are GMOs synthetic substances? Are other ingredients created in a lab like partially hydrogenated oils (which the FDA is looking to do away with) or high fructose corn syrup? The companies that create the product have not thought so. Consumers think differently, and this is where many of the lawsuits are stemming from.
As I was writing this, a thought occurred to me. These food manufacturers are changing their packaging largely because they contain GMOs. The lawsuits are making it not worth it for the companies to label foods all natural. But, many of these companies are the same ones that are saying that it would be expensive to change their packaging if they were required to label GMOs and they’d have to pass that expense on to consumers. But, they are quietly changing their packaging anyway because it’s beneficial to them.
Now that companies are removing the all natural label from packaging, how are consumers to understand what’s in the food? The answer is quite simple. Ignore the front of the package, no matter what it says, flip the package over, and read the ingredients.
Do you trust a product more because it’s labeled all natural?
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