Earlier in October, the Organic & Natural Health Association — a seemingly weighty new trade association with founding board members like Charlie Brown, the former attorney general of West Virginia, and the backing of Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage — released a consumer-research study. It showed that one in three shoppers make no distinction between labeling like “natural” and organic,” even though the former has no legal meaning.
“Our goal is to support increased access through consumer research and education,” CEO Karen Howard said in a press release at the time, “and we are now embarking on the development of a program that will create a clear, meaningful definition for natural foods, followed by a definition for natural supplements.”
Today, the Guardian brought word that the new label will drop in early 2016. It will be totally voluntary on the part of the manufacturers, much like the the Non-GMO Project and follow similar guidelines as federal requirements for organic labeling. The food can’t contain anything genetically modified, sweeteners, artificial colors or preservatives.
“Nanotechnology and synthetically produced vitamins E and D will also not be allowed,” the Guardian writes. “Beef will be subject to the same standards as the requirements for organic labeling, but must go further and also be pastured and grass-fed.”
One expert interviewed by the paper was skeptical of the new label’s possible effectiveness.
“Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for the Center for Food Safety, said he wasn’t familiar with ONHA’s plan to roll out the natural seal, but said he didn’t think voluntary labeling schemes as a whole would be enough to educate American consumers about the healthfulness of packaged foods.
“He said historically voluntary labeling programs have been used for marketing claims or so-called absence claims, like ‘not from concentrate,’ and that ‘relying solely on a new marketing claim is not going to address widespread consumer confusion around the issue of ‘natural.'”