Yonkers, NY — More than half of U.S. consumers look for “natural” food items, and 80 percent say packaged foods making that claim should be free of artificial ingredients and contain components grown without use of pesticides and GMOs, a national survey conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center claims.
“Consumers expect more from natural food labels, and there is a strong consumer mandate for better food production practices in general and food label standards that meet a higher bar,” Urvashi Rangan, PhD, Consumer Reports Food Safety and Suatainability Center executive director, observes. Accordingly, he says, the organization is launching a campaign with TakePart, a social action platform, to eliminate the “natural” label because based on the survey, it is “misleading, confusing and deceptive” to consumers.
Currently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not developed a formal definition for the term “natural” or its derivatives, although it allows its use if nothing artificial or synthetic not normally expected to be in a food is added to it. According to Rangan, shoppers believe the term conveys benefits far exceeding the actual standard.
Consumers’ perception of the “organic” claim is more realistic, Rangan notes, because use of the term is verified and supported by federal standards defining it as being free of GMOs, pesticides and artificial ingredients and processing aids. Poll results show 90 percent of consumers want processed and packaged foods labeled “organic” to meet existing standards.
Ninety-two percent of respondents say genetically engineered (GE) foods should be labeled and meet long-range government safety standards, and an equal number want foods to reflect country of origin.
In addition, the survey found 92 percent of shoppers make an effort to support local farmers, protect the environment from chemicals and reduce pesticide exposure, ensure fair treatment for workers and good living conditions for livestock and reduced antibiotic use in food.