The grocery aisles are crowded with "natural" products—from snacks to supplements to dog treats. But what exactly does it mean for food to be natural? This is the question the FDA is attempting to answer, as pressure from consumers to better define and regulate the term has grown in fervor.
According to a new survey by Consumer Reports, shoppers are looking for stricter federal standards on food label language, especially when it comes to the term "natural." The company's research center collected upwards of 250,000 signatures on a petition demanding that the FDA either establish stronger standards for or ban the usage of the "natural" label. Despite the backlash against the term, the study also found that a whopping 73 percent of shoppers actively seek out and purchase "natural" foods despite the fact there are no standards for the use of the term.
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The FDA seems to understand this, which is why they recently solicited public comment on what "natural" should mean. According to NPR, the FDA gathered nearly 5,000 opinions on the issue, many of which utilize theological reasoning when defining the term, such as: "Natural should be limited to those ingredients that have been created by God." Other consumers said that "natural" food should be free of GMOs, pesticides, chemicals, synthetics, and other artificial elements.