Is the food you are eating “natural”? Are the ingredients you are using natural? Is there a defined statement from any food regulatory agency that gives some clarity to these questions? The simply answer is no! If I had to guess as a reason why, I would say money and power which equals politics in this case. The last thing a president, governor, senator or house member wants is an angry phone call from a large donor that is upset about a regulatory ruling that will work against them. The powers at be realize it is better to leave the issue vague rather than stir up a hornets nest. In this case I believe it is best left to the industry to make these determinations not government.
Back to the issue . The best way to explain this issue is with an example.
The Apple: An apple sitting in the produce section of your grocery store ready to eat is as natural as it will get. No refining or processing of any kind required.
Apple Juice: Requires processing for consumption. Here we have the first “is it natural” issue. Apple juice does not occur naturally. Most people however would not have a problem calling apple juice “natural”. I agree. Apple juice for argument sake is a healthy juice to consume.
Apple Pectin: Requires intensive processing for consumption Pectin is a base building block of not only apple, but all fruits. Apple and Citrus have the greatest amounts of pectin with the most by-product. Apple pumas and citrus peel are by-products of juicing. Apple pectin like apple juice does not occur naturally. Apple pectin is a soluble fiber and for argument sake is healthy to consume.
The idea I am going for here is the term “Natural” which is frankly meaningless. Crude oil and all of it’s by-produces are natural based on my example. You could even argue that synthetic (lab build) food ingredients are natural because all their base building blocks come from nature. This brings us to our next term subjective. The term :natural” is very subjective and will remain that way as it stands right now.
There is one company (Whole Foods) that decided to make a comprehensive list of food ingredients that they will accept as “natural”. You can find this list on their website. Their list interestingly has become somewhat of a standard in the food industry. Not because their experts have some special authority. It has become the standard because they were willing to publish a list of food ingredients that other companies were not willing to do. I am not saying the Whole Foods list is not valid or is in some way a bad list. I am saying it is just a list.
In summary, We are on our own with this issue. My writing this blog is simply to give understanding while knowing how subjective this issue is. The definition of natural will vary from person to person or company to company. Welcome to the gray area. I would recommend the Whole Foods list as a place to start.
Adam Shimmer CEO