- There is no legal definition and no government regulation of the word “natural” when it comes to food.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows companies to use the term “natural” if a product doesn’t contain “added color, artificial flavor or synthetic substances.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) simply states that products must “contain no artificial ingredients” and be “minimally processed.”
- In 2014, Consumer Reports found that 60 percent of consumers look for the word “natural” on the foods they buy. Furthermore, two-thirds of the consumers they surveyed believed “natural” products included no artificial ingredients, pesticides or GMOs. And 80 percent of survey respondents were surprised to learn that “natural” indicates none of that. See more at Consumer Reports: Say No to Natural Food Labels.
- Consumer Reports was so surprised by those survey results that they partnered with TakePart.com, a social media platform, to petition the FDA and USDA to ban the term “natural” on food packaging. See more at Take Part: Food Labels.
- Other types of third-party verification programs and consumer labeling efforts are focused on the drugstore versus the grocery store shelves. These are entities like the USP (U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention), NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), EWG (Environmental Working Group) and CL (ConsumerLab.com). The NSF and USP have been in existence for decades upon decades, while others like CL and EWG are newer. These non-governmental organizations are focused on the testing, verification and labeling of products for transparency and trust in ingredients and claims.
- Even though it has “U.S.” in its title, the United States Pharmacopeiael Convention, or USP, is a totally independent, not-for-profit, scientific pharmacopeia. The USP was started nearly 200 years ago as way to create drug product and ingredient standards that would be enforceable in the U.S. by the FDA. In 2001, the USP launched the Verified Mark for supplements.
- Since the USP Verified Mark program began in 2001, the USP Verified Dietary Supplement icon has appeared on more than 400 million labels. USP Verified products have been rated #1 in various categories of supplements reviewed by Consumer Reports and national media sources.
- What does the USP Verified Dietary Supplement label mean? Here’s the high-level view:
- Contains the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared potency and amounts
- Does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants
- USP verification provides assurance that both the manufacturing process (i.e., good manufacturing practice, or GMP, as verified by the NSF; see below) and ingredients will be of consistent quality, based on the determination by an independent, scientific, ethical and credible third-party organization.
RESOURCE: USP: Verified Dietary Supplements
- This physician-led provider of independent test results and online information has been testing ingredients and certifying their quality since 1999.
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