What does ‘natural’ food mean? It may become clearer in 2011


It’s not too early to start making predictions about the new year, at least not if you’re in the market research business.

Mintel, a company that tracks market and consumer trends, has made a dozen predictions about how food and other products may be packaged in 2011. The company predicts that the squishy term “natural” on food labels may receive more attention from federal regulators, Julie Deardorff reports in the Chicago Tribune’s blog Julie’s Health Club.

The Food and Drug Administration has remained somewhat silent on what “natural” means when it comes to food, except to say:

  • “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”

“Natural” aside, food labels with nutrition guides are the best way to know what’s in a product. The FDA has a fine tutorial on the subject at “How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label.”


Now about those other 11 predictions … Julie’s Health Club has something to say on those too.