Erin Schrode
August 06, 2013 11:30 am

I don’t like being lied to – and my guess is, neither do you. It isn’t a trait we seek out or tolerate habitually in friends, so why do we blindly accept lies from businesses, corporations, and product manufacturers on a daily basis?

Wait… are you even aware that you’re being lied to with such frequency? Have you ever stopped to take note of the deceptions, wordsmithing, omissions, and flat out fabrications that dominate the product labels you see, purchase, and use everyday? This is not a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence; lies on labels are omnipresent and actually quite dangerous.

Today, I want to talk to you about one word: ‘natural.’ I have never considered myself naïve, yet I was one to trust companies in the so-called natural category as having my health and wellbeing top of mind. Tragically, it turns out that is not the case.

Wake up call: the “all natural,” “100% fruit” and “100% juice” liquids – that you have been downing for health benefits galore – may not live up to that promise. Case in point: Naked juice.

Last week, PepsiCo (which owns Naked) paid $9 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed Naked juices contain synthetic ingredients and compounds – not solely blended 100% fruit and vegetable juices, as marketed.

Naked juices can no longer be called natural or boast that coveted “all-natural” label because the ingredients are NOT natural. Plain and simple.

While there exist no regulations around the use of the word “natural” and no governing body has oversight over such claims (aside from USDA Certified Organic, which is among the best we have right now), the FDA does stipulate that synthetic substances do not fit within the “natural” parameters, though it is difficult to define from a food science perspective. In the case of Naked’s juice ingredients, manmade Archer Daniels Midland’s Fibersol-2 and fructooligosaccharides did not fit the “all-natural” bill.

This Naked settlement is significant, as it sets a precedent whereby companies cannot falsely advertise or report dishonestly about the nature of a beverage’s ingredients at the point of sale. Numerous agencies and organizations scrutinize labeling claims, however most of us (the lay consumer) rely on packaging claims to inform purchases. We believe what is written – and companies capitalize upon that with misleading labels.

“Natural” and similar phrases are effectively employed by marketers as tools for deception. It produces a healthy image which appeals to a target audience that will pay more for an all-natural beverage over a conventional counterpart.

A growing popular-and-corporate movement has sprung up around the Right To Know, which focuses on honesty in labeling, specifically related to disclosure of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in food products. While Naked’s non-GMO claims were questioned in the aforementioned lawsuit, the beverage company maintains that all products are free of GMOs, though no third party certifier (like the Non-GMO Project) has verified this claim.

While the push for mandatory, honest labeling continues at both the state (A Coalition of States) and federal (Just Label It) levels, this Naked settlement proves that lawsuits posed by customers can have serious, immediate, and wide-reaching impact.

If you don’t like being lied to or duped by companies, speak up! Be discerning in your purchases. Look for USDA certified organic and non-GMO verified products. And remember, “natural” doesn’t mean a darn thing.

Photo courtesy of Sambazon, a proudly and truly “all-natural” company.

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