"Natural" Labels

June 28,2010
Sweet Pea Chef
Jessica Efird( )

Jessica, aka the Sweet Pea Chef, is a former U.S. Senate staffer/weekend gourmet turned full-time mom/family gourmet. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two sons.

I get it. Food manufacturers (shouldn’t farms be the true “manufacturers” of food? But I digress…) and distributors want to sell their wares. I know we live in a free market and that advertising serves a role in such a system. But the other day I saw a food label that made me stop and think: “All Natural Eggs” Natural foods are gaining in popularity and I could not be happier. However, I think some of the labels that food companies use to market their food are funny. “All Natural Eggs,” is an odd one when you think of it, as it would be a bit scary to consider an unnatural egg. Perhaps an unnatural egg is similar to some of the Easter candy that hits the store shelves in late winter and early spring? Obviously, all eggs that are comprised of a yolk, white and shell are “natural,” but this food label speaks to the point that certain key words can market or advertise a food more effectively than others. “Natural” is being thrown around in all sorts of ways these days, some very truthful and others, decidedly less so. For example, there is a major kitchen condiment that is a household name that has a very folksy television commercial touting its natural goodness, and the basic, fresh ingredients of which it is composed. Images of families and individuals playing outside in the fresh air seem to drive the message home that this item is made practically in a farmhouse. However, in teeny tiny print, at the bottom of the page, it states that an artificial preservative has been added “to maintain freshness.” As someone who purchases said condiment at Trader Joe’s specifically because there are no artificial preservatives, it seems to me that this food company could create a 100% natural product, but does not. So why then does it play up its farm-y image? Because this image sells, and whether it is truly accurate or not, well, that is a minor issue. Another example is a major soft drink that touts it as being “100% natural flavor.” Never mind that there are also preservatives in it too. I wonder if the label said “Almost all natural, if you overlook the artificial preservative on our ingredient list!” it would sell as well? There are countless other examples of food packaging containing the word “natural” when only a small portion of that item is actually natural. Why do I bring this up? Not to gripe, but to simply share what I have discovered and to help others be aware of reading the whole story, not just a key word or two. SPC