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Behind the label: What does “All Natural” REALLY Mean?
If you stroll down the aisles of your local grocery store, you're more than likely to encounter the label: "natural" or "all-natural." While these labels should seem straight-forward, and should indicate that the food is natural (i.e. close to nature), that hardly seems the case– especially when it’s slapped on snacks like Cheetos and Oreos, or on fruit drinks that contain high-fructose corn syrup.

It’s almost oxymoronic, and yet a study has found that nearly 73% of shoppers look for products with the “natural” label — a greater percentage than those who purchased more stringently labeled “organic” foods. So what is the truth? Do these “natural” labels hold any merit? The short answer, no.

The Food and Drug Administration has no official definition of "natural food" — in part, they say, because a great many foods in the grocery store have usually been processed or altered in some way and so it's difficult to draw a clear line. In fact, back in 1991, the FDA even tried to come up with a more precise standard– only to eventually give up. The result thus became that the FDA doesn't even regulate most uses of "natural" labels, only going so far as to occasionally send warning letters — if, say, a product is labeled "all-natural" but contains citric acid or calcium chloride or potassium sorbate. (Though, as one investigation by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found, those warning letters often go ignored by food companies.)

A 2019 lawsuit in Washington D.C. aimed to challenge the use of the "natural" label on meat products. Animal rights group, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, argued that Hormel's "Natural Choice" line misled consumers by implying their meats were free of antibiotics and hormones. However, the lawsuit was dismissed as "natural" under the USDA definition which simply requires minimal processing and no artificial ingredients. This broad definition allows products like Cheetos, some Oreos, and peanut butter to be labeled "natural," even if the animals they come from were raised with antibiotics or hormones. In essence, Hormel's packaging adhered to the legal definition of "natural" as outlined by the USDA.

So, if you’d been wondering if an “all-natural” label is worth the extra dollar or two, the answer comes to a strict no. Instead, we recommend that you stick to the ingredient list. Since there is no official definition of natural, you should decide for yourself how YOU define natural and what actually matters to you when it comes to the foods and ingredients you’re putting into your body and feel confident in all of the items on the list.

Our founder initially created the recipes for each of our products in her own kitchen for her son who has a corn allergy, and when she decided to mass produce them, she aimed to stay as close to her home recipes as possible. Every single ingredient used in all of our products is not only something you can pronounce but also something you’d find in your own kitchen.

In the labyrinth of food labeling, the term "natural" is misleading at best, straight-up lying at worst. With no clear regulatory framework, it's up to consumers to navigate the aisles with skepticism and a discerning eye, lest they fall victim to the marketing ploys of food conglomerates. As we ponder the contents of our shopping carts, one thing is clear: shop from brands you trust instead of trying to decipher labels at 2pm on a Sunday.

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