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Natural (adj.) 1. Of or arising from nature; in accordance with what is found or expected in nature. 2. Produced or existing in nature; not artificial or manufactured.

Natural food is as easy to come by as Coca-Cola, but what are companies really promising when they claim their products are “all natural”?

Wesson cooking oils, Kashi cereals, Arizona-brand drinks, and Skinnygirl Margarita alcoholic beverages all claim to be “all natural.” According to the Food and Drug Administration, “all natural” means the product contains nothing artificial or synthetic. But Skinnygirl Margaritas contain preservatives, including sodium benzoate. Kashi lists unnaturally processed and synthetic ingredients.

For these companies, being “all natural” just means using natural ingredients, even if not exclusively. Thus high fructose corn syrup has been called all natural, leading to a lawsuit that challenges the notion that high fructose corn syrup is as natural as refined cane sugar.

In the past, fewer products claimed to be all natural; it has always been difficult to mass produce a product that really is all natural but still offers a decent shelf-life. But as more companies claim to be all natural, consumers have a harder time making comparisons between products that offer a reasonably natural alternative and those that are just making the claim.

Discussion Questions:

1.      Is it ethical to claim that a product with just some natural ingredients is all natural?

2.      As a consumer, do you believe labels that make claims of being all natural

Ashby Jones, “Is Your Dinner ‘All Natural’?,” Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2011.