“Natural” Label Still Popular
A slew of lawsuits—58 in 2013 alone—hasn’t persuaded the food industry to jump off the “natural”-labeling bandwagon. Some experts had predicted that fear of legal action over the vague definition of “natural” might deter companies from using the term, which has been challenged in products using genetically modified (GMO) ingredients or high-fructose corn syrup, for example. But Mintel, which tracks global product launches, reports that 14% of new food products introduced in the US last year claimed to be “natural”—up from 12% in 2012. Some larger firms have dropped the term, labeling products as “Simply” rather than “Simply Natural,” for instance. But retailers are plastering “natural” on even more products, according to Mintel. Unlike “organic” products, which must meet strict USDA standards, current FDA regulations state only that “natural” products cannot contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances, and that the labeling term must not be used in a “misleading” way.