Stop Confusing Consumers: Ban the ‘Natural’ Label

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Why Consumer Reports sponsored this action:

Consumer Reports empowers consumers with the knowledge they need to make better and more informed choices—and battles in the public and private sectors for safer products and fair market practices. This action is a part of our series, Know Your Labels, Know Your Food

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About the Petition

Even though the Food and Drug Administration does not object to the use of the term “natural” if “nothing artificial or synthetic” is added, there’s no definition for the term, which essentially means no regulation and no oversight. As a result, “natural” processed foods can include ingredients from nature that are processed into artificial ingredients and may also come from plants grown with toxic pesticides, bioengineered seeds, and chemicals processed with synthetic solvents. Meat labeled as “natural” can come from animals that were raised with daily doses of antibiotics and other drugs, given artificial growth hormones, fed genetically engineered soy and corn feed and other artificial ingredients and continually confined indoors.

Consumers believe that “natural” should mean something very different: According to results of a recent consumer survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, U.S. consumers believe that the “natural” label on meat and poultry products should mean that the animal was not given growth hormones (89 percent) or antibiotics and other drugs (81 percent), and that their feed did not contain genetically engineered organisms (85 percent) and artificial ingredients (85 percent). They also think the label should mean no chemicals were used during processing (87 percent), no toxic pesticides were used (86 percent), no artificial ingredients or colors were used (86 percent), and no GMOs were used (85 percent).

Unlike the “organic” label, which is regulated and verified by the United States Department of Agriculture, there are no restrictions on how the animals were raised or what can go into foods labeled “natural.”

Too many people believe they’re avoiding toxic pesticides, artificial growth hormones, and GMOs when they buy food labeled “natural.” We need truthful and meaningful labels that inform consumers, not confuse them.

Urge the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration to drop the misleading “natural” label from food once and for all!

Feeling inspired? Learn more about the campaign on the truth behind food labeling here.


The ubiquitous “natural” label leads consumers to believe the food they buy does not contain such things as artificial ingredients, GMOs, pesticides, and hormones. Without any oversight or enforcement, food companies can use the “natural” label deceptively on almost any food.

It’s time to drop this deceptive label for good.

We urge both the FDA and the USDA to make the following changes:

  • They should prohibit the use of the “natural” label on food.
  • The USDA should issue an interpretive rule prohibiting the “natural” label on meat and poultry by amending the Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book with the following language:
    • The term “natural” is misleading to consumers and may not be used on labeling for meat products and poultry products
  • The FDA should the issue the following interpretive rule: 
    • The term “natural,” or any derivation of the term, such as “naturally grown,” “naturally sourced,” or “from nature,” is vague and misleading and should not be used.

We believe the FDA and the USDA can and should make these changes based on the regulatory criteria for what constitutes “false and misleading” labeling that both agencies already have.

Specifically: The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act states that “a food shall be deemed to be misbranded” if “its labeling is false or misleading in any particular” (21 USC §343(a)(1)).

The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) states that a meat or meat food product shall be “misbranded” if its “labeling is false or misleading in any particular” (21 USC §601(n)(1)).

The Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) states that a poultry product shall be “misbranded” if its “labeling is false or misleading in any particular” (21 USC §453(h)(1)).

We want a better food system, one with credible labels that empower consumers to make informed choices for their families. We urge you to take action immediately.


[Your name here]



Thanks to all of you, we have reached our goal!   

However, when we send off this petition, we want to do so with as many signatures as possible, so please continue to spread the word!


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    Fanwood, NJ
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