Natural labels and lies: Are they telling the truth?

15th May 2014 - Fine Cut

Nowadays, it would be fair to say that consumers can be very fickle, making purchasing decisions in a split second based on little more than superficial qualities of a product or service. 

Therefore, it is extremely important that manufacturers ensure any labels or packaging are able to draw in buyers and influence their choices in a matter of moments. One way of doing this might be to include buzzwords that will appeal to the right kinds of buyer, which may then result in conversions.

However, it is also fair to say this shouldn't be to the detriment of the content of that particular label or packaging, and should certainly not compromise on honesty in a bid to secure a sale.

When it comes to food, many health-conscious individuals are drawn in by promises of products being organic, Fairtrade, natural and additive-free, as they believe it is in keeping with their dietary preferences.

However, an article in Canada's Globe and Mail has suggested that across the pond, the 'all-natural' labels appearing on food items could be misleading.

According to the news provider, last week Kellogg announced it would changing the formulas for some products and removing 'all natural' and 'nothing artificial' for some of its Kashi brand items in the US. 

This is because of legal reasons, after a claim was filed in 2011 stating the items contained synthetic ingredients - for example, pyridoxine hydrochloride and calcium pantothenate - making them far from natural, the New York Times reported. And yet, the problem is said to be far from unique to this one firm.

As a result, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has devised a series of rules that aim to stop food manufacturers using such terms when it is not appropriate. The body believes that, should a food contain even an added vitamin, this renders it no longer 'natural'.

So, it would appear that some manufacturers should perhaps stop to think twice about whether or not their product really is what they are claiming it to be - not least to avoid landing on the wrong side of the law.

According to the Food Standards Agency: "'Natural' means essentially that the product is comprised of natural 
ingredients - eg ingredients produced by nature - not the work of man or interfered with by man. 

"It is misleading to use the term to describe foods or ingredients that employ chemicals to change their composition or comprise the products of new technologies, including additives and flavourings that are the product of the chemical industry or extracted by chemical processes."

The organisation also provides guidance for using other similar terms, such as pure, traditional, original, authentic, real and genuine - most of which have been commonly known to be used as a marketing ploy to entice consumers.

If you are in doubt about how, where and why these labels should and can be used, it is always worth double checking to ensure not only that you don't end up in legal trouble, but also that you don't wind up losing loyal customers who feel they have been duped.

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