By Max Rothman
If you don’t know what all-natural means, you’re not alone. However, as the lawsuits pile up, you may not have to know.
An article in The Wall Street Journal by reporter Mike Esterl notes that food and beverage products labeled as “natural,” such as PepsiCo’s Naked juice, are beginning to shed the hazy modifier.
The FDA doesn’t define the term “natural.”
“Natural is a great magnet for consumers,” Esterl said on the podcast The Wall Street Journal This Morning. “People want to buy stuff that’s natural or all-natural and they’re willing to pay more for it. The challenge is, there’s no real legal definition for natural.”
Esterl writes that The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no definition of natural, according to a spokeswoman. However, it does consider natural to mean that no artificial or synthetic ingredients and additives have been included in a food that wouldn’t meet the expectations of that food. This definition seems to need a definition of its own, especially considering the part about expectations.
The article also notes that a “food labeling modernization” bill was introduced in Congress in September. If passed, the bill would force the FDA to establish a standard nutrition labeling system and guidelines for the use of “natural.”
In July, PepsiCo agreed to pay $9 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that Naked juice contained GMOs and ingredients that aren’t “all-natural.” PepsiCo will remove the words “all-natural fruits and vegetables” from Naked juice’s packaging until more guidance becomes available, according to the article.
While the FDA’s definition of natural remains unclear, its stance on artificial trans fats is another story.
Last Thursday, the FDA proposed measures that would “all but eliminate” artificial trans fats, a major contributor to heart disease in the U.S., from the food supply, as noted in an article by Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times.
“This is the final slam dunk on the trans fat issue,” Barry Popkin, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, said in the article.
Trans fats don’t play a large role in the ready-to-drink beverage industry, however one could draw parallels to high fructose corn syrup. Both ingredients are cheaper than the alternatives, butter and sugar, and have strong but not entirely conclusive evidence against their use. Despite citing research from The Institute of Medicine, the FDA has proven with the news on trans fats that it can make this kind of decision without entirely conclusive evidence.
It doesn’t take much to understand the FDA’s perspective on trans fats, however The Wall Street Journal believes that the green juice fad isn’t so black and white.
“Just as carrying a Starbucks coffee cup has become a celebrity fashion accessory and a slung-over-the-shoulder yoga mat can signify a certain devotion to spiritual fitness, porting a clear bottle of green vegetable juice has evolved into a status symbol,” Rosman writes.
She also writes that, initially, the juice market was buoyed by consumers looking for liquid cleanses. Now, consumers are using the juices as meal replacements. In the article, she mentions Suja, which generated $20 million in revenue in its first year, BluePrint and Evolution Fresh.
Just as Rosman notes how green juice influences status, Rose Cameron, the CEO and founder of WAT-AAH!, writes on Monday for The Huffington Post about the influence of celebrities and athletes who endorse unhealthy products. The most damaging of all these celebrities? No, it’s not Dennis Rodman and Carl’s Jr., it’s country kitten Taylor Swift and Diet Coke.
Cameron writes that a recent study conducted by the WAT-AAH! Foundation and The Fit Kids Foundation, an organization that promotes youth fitness, found that Swift’s endorsement of Diet Coke could serve as a gateway to kids drinking diet sodas and beginning a relationship with Coke’s brand.
The study found that nine out of 10 kids immediately recall Swift’s Diet Coke commercial and 77 percent of the 166 children in the study showed an interest in trying or buying the product. Despite these figures, seven out of 10 kids doubt that Taylor stands behind the brand or actually consumes Diet Coke on a regular basis.
Cameron chose to focus on Swift because of her ability to relate to younger people.
“Taylor Swift has the power to influence kids on an emotional level that can rival any popular celebrity today,” Cameron writes. “Her endorsement of Diet Coke jeopardizes kids’ ability to make healthy decisions.”
If you’re also worried about Swift and Diet Coke, at least you don’t need to sweat the rumors of Mexican Coke.
The dedicated cult of Mexican Coke drinkers may have been thrown off by reports last week that, in response to the new Mexican soda tax, the beverage’s cane sugar will be replaced by high fructose corn syrup. However, reporter Candice Choi of The Associated Press refutes the rumor, writing that Mexican Coke in the U.S. will still use cane sugar.
Arca Continental, the Mexican bottler of the beverage, said in a statement that it has no plans to change the sweetener, and the company’s CEO said that the only Mexican Coke that could use more fructose will be distributed in Mexico, according to the article.