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"Natural" Food Labels Will Receive Clear Guidelines

Lawsuits Over Food Labeling
As of late, food and drink companies alike have been quick to remove labeling from their products that make claims about the food being "natural." This is largely due to the string of recent lawsuits over false advertising claims, explained The Daily Meal.

The Guardian noted that major players like Welch's and Gerber are facing the heat for claiming "all-natural" ingredients on their food labels.

Welch's faced a lawsuit in September that claimed the company was participating in "deceptive practices in misrepresenting the fruit content and the nutritional and health qualities of Welch's fruit snacks," according to the source.

Before the lawsuit fruit gummy packaging labels read "Made With REAL Fruit," now, in light of the claims, the packages read "Made With More REAL Fruit."

"Food is made to look healthier than it is," said Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest Margo Wootan, noted The Guardian. "The company is misleading them [consumers]."

A Temporary Labeling Solution
With all the commotion surrounding natural labeling on food products, the Organic and Natural Health Association, or OHNA, has a tentative solution. The Daily Meal reported that the OHNA will present a certification program in early 2016 that will create a list of requirements for companies that want to receive an official OHNA "natural" seal.

Interested companies will have to undergo the process of inspection to ensure they meet all required criteria to deserved the "natural" label. From there, these businesses can pay a small fee to the OHNA to receive the official label for their product.

These foods cannot contain any sweeteners, flavoring, colors or artificial preservatives. Additionally, the food items must be free of GMOs, explained The Daily Meal.

When it comes to beef, all products must be pastured and grass-fed. Synthetically produced vitamins are also out of the question for companies seeking the natural label.

The major flaw with these labels is that they will not be government-approved and they are overall a voluntary effort. Companies are not forced to participate in the food labeling verification process and as such the regulation is merely a self-imposed effort, reported The Guardian.

However, the OHNA is attempting to make a considerable step in the right direction by finally providing some guidelines about what qualifies as natural and what doesn't.

"It became clear to us that we just needed to define 'natural' as what it was," explained OHNA CEO Karen Howard, according to the source. The Guardian went on to point out that The Food and Drug Administration does not provide consumers or businesses with clear definitions when it comes to the term. 

There is a clear need for these type of specifications considering consumer trust in the meaning of "natural" labeled food products.

According to a survey by the National Marketing Institute, of the consumers surveyed 46 percent believed that there was some form of government regulation of "natural" labeling, The Guardian explained. Moreover, 50 percent believed the term meant that the food labeled "natural" was free of GMOs and pesticides.

Clearly, there need to be regulations of some kind to ensure "natural" food labeling holds true to consumer expectations.