Natural foods

Natural foods

The term “natural” is applied to many foods, but does not have a consistent meaning.

Natural foods” and “all natural foods” are widely used terms in food labeling and marketing with a variety of definitions, most of which are vague. The term is often assumed to imply foods that are minimally processed and all of whose ingredients are natural products (in the chemist's sense of that term), but the lack of standards in most jurisdictions means that the term assures nothing. In some countries, the term “natural” is defined and enforced. In others, such as the United States, it has no meaning.

Diverse definitions

“Natural foods” are often assumed to be foods that are minimally processed or do not contain any food additives, or do not contain particular additives such as hormones, antibiotics, sweeteners, food colors, or flavorings that were not originally in the food.[1] In fact, many people (63%) when surveyed showed a preference for products labeled "natural" compared to the unmarked counterparts, based on the common belief (86% of polled consumers) that the term "natural" indicated that the food does not contain any artificial ingredients.[2] The terms are variously used and misused on labels and in advertisements.[3]

The international [4]

Fundamentally, almost all foodstuffs are derived from the natural products of plants and animals[5]

Definition by process and by product

United Kingdom

UK blue Smarties, old(Top) and new(Bottom). Blue Smarties were re-introduced by Nestlé in the UK in February 2008, using a “natural” blue dye derived from the cyanobacterium spirulina rather than synthetic blue dye.[6]

In the United Kingdom, the Food Standards Agency has published criteria for the use of several terms in food labeling. The guidance, in general, restricts the use of natural to foods that have “ingredients produced by nature, not the work of man or interfered with by man.” Natural flavorings are explicitly defined by separate laws.[7]

There are different standards for various types of food, such as dairy products. It also gives standards for some food processing techniques, such as fermentation or pasteurization. The standard explicitly rules out "foods derived from novel processes, GM or cloning."[8]

Definition by process only


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency restricts the use of "natural" to foods that have not been significantly altered by processing and gives examples of processes that do or do not significantly alter food. This includes two specific additional requirements:[9]

  • A natural food or ingredient of a food is not expected to contain, or to ever have contained, an added vitamin, mineral nutrient, artificial flavouring agent or food additive.
  • A natural food or ingredient of a food does not have any constituent or fraction thereof removed or significantly changed, except the removal of water.


In Israel, natural ingredients are defined as part of the Labelling of Prepacked Food Standard (Israeli Standard SI 1145, which is legally binding).

The standard offers a list of 33 processes which are allowed in natural ingredients, all of which are physical treatments and not chemical modifications. These include blending, cleaning, extrusion, freezing, drying, etc.

A specific ingredient can be called "natural" if it didn't go through any processing except for the listed ones. The whole food can be called "natural" if the food is not a blend of foods (even if they are all natural), has no added ingredients, and underwent only the specified processes.[10]

No definition

United States

In the [14] As of August 2005, the USDA has a section governing "natural claims" in its Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book;[15][16] the USDA's regulatory jurisdiction applies only to meat, poultry, and egg products.

Because there are few regulations governing the labeling of "natural" foods, food manufacturers can include ingredients that may not be considered natural by some consumers.

The poultry industry has been criticized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for labeling chicken meat "all natural" after it has been injected with saline solution up to 25% of its weight, but there is no legal recourse to prevent this labeling.[17]

Although there are few legal U.S. definitions for natural foods, there are numerous unofficial or informal definitions, none of which is applied uniformly to foods labeled "natural".

See also


  1. ^ Ikerd, John. The New American Food Economy.
  2. ^ Weaver, A. (2014). "Natural" Foods: Inherently Confusing. Journal Of Corporation Law, 39(3), 657-674.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Food processing: a century of change, R. W. Welch and P. C. Mitchell (2000) British Medical Bulletin, 56 (No 1) 1-17,
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Weaver, A. (2014). "Natural" Foods: Inherently Confusing. Journal Of Corporation Law, 39(3), 657-674.
  12. ^ FDA BASICS, What is the meaning of 'natural' on the labeling of food,
  13. ^ Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims, General Principles, Petitions, Definition of Terms, 56 Fed. Reg. 60,421, 60,466 (Nov. 27, 1991) (codified at 21 C.F.R. pts. 5, 101, and 105), available at
  14. ^
  15. ^ [1] USDA Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, August 2005
  16. ^
  17. ^ Salt-Water-Soaked Chicken Not at all Natural, Says CSPI CSPI, February 24, 2010