Natural or not? The fight to define natural ingredients

Posted at 11:02 AM, Apr 30, 2019

PHOENIX, Arizona — The use of natural ingredients is a big sell for many consumers.

But what makes a product "natural?" How are you supposed to be able to tell the difference?

Technically there is no legal definition for what is "natural" in a product. Bonnie Patten, with consumer advocacy group Truth In Advertising (TINA), says that's a problem for consumers who rely on labeling.

"It's a multitude of different claims that are being made because no one knows what the terms actually mean," she says. TINA says it is tracking more than 350 lawsuits that question whether products are natural or not.

Kind Bar and LaCroix are both defending themselves against lawsuits claiming some of their ingredients are not natural.

Purex detergent recently settled a case about using synthetic ingredients in its natural elements detergent. The company agreed to pay out $1.5 million and temporarily change the labeling of the product.

In 2016 the Food and Drug Administration began looking into clarifying the rules. It has yet to issue a directive. Until then Patten says it's up to consumers to look past the label.

"Ignore the marketing hype of the term natural, turn products over and actually read the ingredients list," she said.