When I was in college I had a chemistry professor who was ranting about the overuse of the term “all natural” and was pointing out to us how there are plenty of things that are “natural” that are in fact not good for us. I believe arsenic was the example he used. Years later, I see “all natural” all the time on processed food and usually look at this with a large dose of skepticism.
Not everyone shares this skepticism though, and a recent lawsuit against Naked Juice revolving around the “all natural” claim reminds me just how not just unhealthy, but also not necessarily natural “all natural” can be.
Disclaimer… I don’t think I’ve ever actually purchased a Naked Juice drink (probably because I’m cheap). But I know a lot of people have, and have paid a premium price for the supposedly all natural and non-GMO juices and smoothies. They claim that “We only add the best, all-natural ingredients to our juice. Oh, and a label.” Turns out, they add a little more than that. They recently settled a lawsuit for $9 billion dollars over deceptive advertising and their “all natural” claims. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued they added Fibersol-2 (a soluble corn fiber used to increase the fiber content of foods) fructooligosaccarides (a fructose-based alternative sweetener and indigestible fiber) and inulin (a soluble fiber) and also contained genetically modified (GMO) soy as well as calcium pantothenate (synthetically produced from formaldehyde). While Pepsico (the parent company of Naked Juice) of course denies all wrongdoing, they don’t deny that they add these ingredients. Their statements denying wrongdoing revolve around the fact that there aren’t really any mandated standards for what falls under the term “all natural”, so they didn’t actually fall afoul of this. I would imagine that for most people though, these ingredients don’t really fall under what we think of when we hear “natural”. As for the non-GMO claim, looks like they don’t actually know if their ingredients are non-GMO and part of the settlement includes them hiring a testing firm to verify if there are GMO ingredients in their product.
I previously did a post on the interesting math of 100% juice plus added ingredients that brought up issues with food labels and how misleading they can be. The Naked Juice case brings up other food labeling issues and frustrations, and is a reminder of how closely you really have to look at those labels. Generally speaking, the big marketing phrases on the labels like 100% juice and all natural, are just that… marketing. You actually have to read the ingredients to get the real story. And this is incredibly frustrating as a consumer. And as a mom of 3 little boys who barely has time to quickly get through the grocery store before everyone melts down – I imagine my boys getting into all kinds of trouble while I try to pay close attention to reading the entire label.
Until there are real standards on the labeling of food, that don’t allow companies to mislead us with their marketing , there really isn’t much alternative though, other than trying to make what we can ourselves, and limit our processed food and drink intake.