YONKERS, N.J. – Consumer Reports has launched a campaign to "kill the natural label." The consumer interest organization found that despite the lack of a federal or third-party verified label for the term "natural,” consumers believe the "natural" label carries specific benefits while a higher number of consumers think it should.
The Consumer Reports National Research Center released a national poll that gauges consumer expectations of a range of food labels, including "fair trade," "humane," "organic," "raised without antibiotics" and "country of origin."
"Our findings show consumers expect much more from 'natural' food labels and that there is a strong consumer mandate for better food production practices in general and food label standards that meet a higher bar," said Urvashi Rangan, executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. "Due to overwhelming and ongoing consumer confusion around the 'natural' food label, we are launching a new campaign to kill the 'natural' label because our poll underscores that it is misleading, confusing, and deceptive. We truly don't believe there is a way to define it that will meet all of consumers' expectations."
Additional data from the survey showed that 92% of consumers said the term "humanely raised" should mean the farm was inspected to verify the claim; 90% said the term should mean the animals had adequate living space; 88% said the term should mean animals were humanely slaughtered; and 79% said the claim should mean the animals went outdoors.
Ninety-two per cent of consumers surveyed said genetically modified food should be labeled as such before it is sold, while 72% said it is crucial for them to avoid bioengineered ingredients when making food purchases.
Consumer Reports also found that 92% of consumers want country-of-origin labels, while 90% of consumers want to know if the meat they buy is from outside the United States.
Another key finding: 65% of consumers correctly think the "raised without antibiotics" claim means that no antibiotics were used. However 31% of consumers think the antibiotic-free label means no other drugs were used in addition to antibiotics, according to Consumer Reports. Additionally, 83% of consumers said they expect government to require that meat produced using antibiotics be labeled as "raised with antibiotics."