“How often misused words generate misleading thoughts.” -Herbert Spencer
Recently, I purchased a product that was labeled as real, preservative free, and natural. Good, right? That is, until I started reading the fine print. Below the ingredient list, a disclaimer states: Contains bioengineered food ingredients. That made me stop and think. Are bioengineered ingredients natural?
Ongoing food labeling litigation contends that companies who use this type of conflicting language are intentionally misleading consumers. Consumer advocacy class actions are attempting to protect the public against what they contend is an exploitation of confusion when it comes to the term “natural.”
What is allowed by the FDA seems to be at odds with the assumptions we make when we see the word “natural.” When you think of this term, what image appears in your mind? Is it a garden or a lab? A standard dictionary defines natural as “existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind.”
Meanwhile, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that bioengineered food “contains genetic material that has been modified through certain laboratory techniques and for which the modification could not be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.”
These two definitions are clearly at odds. If bioengineered ingredients cannot be found in nature, then they are inherently not natural. So, why is this type of packaging allowed?
The trouble lies in the fact that the FDA has yet to define the term “natural.” Note that they do insist that foods labeled “organic” do not contain bioengineered components. The missing guidelines for labels like “natural” or “all natural” have been criticized for years, but the FDA is unlikely to change this lack of oversight anytime soon.
The responsibility is passed on to us as consumers. Keep reading food labels closely, and don’t be fooled by misleading packaging.
Assist your friends and family members in making safe, sound food choices by sharing these mislabeled products on your social media. Perhaps with greater awareness, one day we will see change.
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What To Remember- Some foods labeled “natural” are produced with ingredients made with bioengineering.- Bioengineered food ingredients contain lab-modified organisms.- The FDA does not define or oversee the use of the term “natural.”- Use caution! Read food labels closely and watch for deceptive terms.
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