Watch: The word “natural” doesn’t mean what you think it does

Food marketers misuse and abuse the nonsensical term VIDEO

Topics: Video, natural food, GMOs, organic food, FDA, Food Industry,

The food industry needn’t worry much if its processed food bears little to no resemblance to anything found in nature. All marketers have to do is throw the word “natural” on there, maybe add a picture of a barn, and voila! Natural!

This parody from the folks at Only Organic may simplify the issue a bit — as Grist points out, the word “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy” either — but makes good fun of a very important point: the FDA doesn’t have a set definition for the word “natural.” The agency simply says it doesn’t object to the use of the term so long as there are no added color, artificial flavors or synthetic ingredients (they’ve yet to weigh in on whether they’re cool with the label being applied to GMOs). This leaves open a large gray area for food marketers, knowing that consumers will bite (excuse the pun), to try to get away with as much as they can.

Pepsi inadvertently drew attention to the issue last month when it removed the word from its line of Frito-Lay Chips. But the natural-washing, as it were, is epidemic: Just this morning, Kraft did the very thing mocked in the video, announcing that it will now advertise its American cheese product (it can’t legally call it cheese) with images of grazing cows.

It would have been amazing if this video just went the “Put a ‘natural’ label on it” route, but it’s still pretty brilliant:

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email

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