I don't think I've ever thought of soda as being "all natural" despite what advertisements might say. That assumption is based on the fact that I've never seen carbonated liquid squeezed out of a fruit or vegetable.
Apparently, though, Center for Science in the Public Interest was worried some people might believe soda could be all natural--and thus not so bad for you. In May, it said it would sue beverage company Cadbury-Schweppes for calling the newly reformulated 7-Up all natural, even though it contained man-made high-fructose corn syrup.
Last week, Cadbury-Schweppes cried uncle and said it would change the labeling on 7-Up to "highlight natural ingredients ... for which there is no debate." Instead, it will promote the drink for having "all-natural flavors," "no added colors, no artificial preservatives and no caffeine."
As a result, CSPI also backed down on its threat to take Cadbury to court.
In its defense, Cadbury said it developed 7-Up following Food and Drug Administration policy on natural products and ingredients. Therein lies the crux of the issue: how to define "natural."
The FDA has tried in the past to nail down a more detailed definition, but has never formally adopted one. It has described "natural" as "minimally processed." That has left companies--and consumer advocates--leeway to come up with their own definitions.
Cadbury doesn't seem to consider high-fructose corn syrup an "artificial ingredient." Neither does Kraft Foods, which CSPI is helping a Florida woman sue over its "all-natural" claims for Capri Sun. Corn syrup, after all, comes from corn starch, transformed using what even CSPI admits are naturally occurring fungi and bacteria.
(What's interesting about Capri Sun is the way its high-fructose corn syrup content is disclosed. According to CSPI, the drinks are typically sold in boxes of 10 foil pouches. Both the boxes and the pouches use the words "All Natural," right under words "Capri Sun." On its Web site, it says "All Natural Capri Sun contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives."
Only the boxes mention the presence of high-fructose corn syrup in the fine print of the ingredients list, where it comes in second after water and before juice concentrates.)
In contrast to Cadbury and Kraft, however, CSPI argues that the process by which high-fructose corn syrup is made doesn't occur in nature and is therefore, not natural.
CSPI says high-fructose corn syrup is artificial because it takes "a complex chemical industrial process performed in refineries using centrifuges, hydroclones, ion-exchange columns, backed-bed reactors and other high-tech equipment." CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson quipped that if you wanted to try this at home, you'd have to set up the equivalent of a mini-Manhattan Project.
What I'd like to know is how much do consumers want or need to know about how their food is made when they read a label such as "natural?" Are the raw ingredients being natural enough? Does how they are made also matter?
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