The “Natural Label”: GMO, MSG and Flavorings

General Information

“All Natural” is the most abused and misleading food label used by food manufacturers. FDA restricts the term “natural” to products that contain no artificial substances, including color additives and flavors, but allows Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

USDA identifies that “natural” may be used on the label if the meat or poultry product does not contain any artificial ingredients or added color, and is only “minimally processed” post-slaughter. The term does not define how animals are raised or fed.

  • “ All Natural” or “Natural” label does not give a guarantee to consumers that products are hormone or antibiotic free or do not contain MSG (monosodium glutamate) or GM ingredients.  All non-organic products may contain GM ingredients.
  • The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed” etc.).However, there are no strict standards for natural food products as a result many manufacturers use natural labels freely due to the lack of adequate guidelines.

Examples:

For example raw cut beef can be labeled as “Natural” since it is not processed, however, it does not mean that the meat is antibiotics and hormone free. By the definition, anything derived from plants, animals or elements found on planet Earth could earn the “all natural” label however what is important is the process by which it was derived which often makes it unnatural.

For example whole grain corn is healthy and is natural food, however when corn is refined and sugar is extracted from it to make high fructose corn syrup, it becomes unnatural and the presence of this ingredient in food contributes to various health issues such as type two  diabetes. When food ingredients are chemically or structurally altered it is not natural anymore. However, corn associations argue that high fructose corn syrup is “all natural” because it comes from a plant.

What are MSGs and why should we avoid it?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a salt that is chemically converted into food enhancement. Recently researched has shown that MSG promotes weight gain, causes brain damage, promotes liver inflammation.  However, according to the FDA and The Glutamate Association, MSG is regarded as natural and generally safe. (msfacts.org)

Health Risks of MSGs

MSG over stimulates the brain causing the extensive production of dopamine which increases heart rate and blood pressure and produces a brief sensation of well being. That is why food containing MSG is highly addictive and may contribute to obesity and brain cell destruction. The study which treated mice with MSG also proved that it may lead to liver inflammation.

The following ingredients always contain various amounts of unlabeled Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG):
* Food Additives that ALWAYS contain MSG *

 Monosodium Glutamate

Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein

Hydrolyzed Protein

Hydrolyzed Plant Protein

Plant Protein Extract

Sodium Caseinate

Calcium Caseinate

Yeast Extract

Textured Protein (Including TVP)

Autolyzed Yeast

Hydrolyzed Oat Flour

Corn Oil

* Food Additives That FREQUENTLY Contain MSG *

Malt Extract

Malt Flavoring

Bouillon

Broth

Stock

Flavoring

Natural Flavors/Flavoring

Natural Beef Or Chicken Flavoring

Seasoning

Spices

Major food corporation are unable to remove MSGs from their products because the food quality would need to be improved in order for the food to taste good without food enhancements, as a result would increase cost of production, FDA legally allows hiding MSG in the products.

What are GMOs and why we should avoid it?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species. FDA does not allow labels like “GM-free,” “GMO-Free” or “biotech-free.” The agency says guaranteeing a product to be free of GM material is virtually impossible. Instead the labels will have to say the food was not produced through bioengineering. The FDA said it may take legal action against companies that violate these guidelines.

GM food is produced because it is genetically altered in a way to reduce plants vulnerability diseases caused by viruses or insects. Virus resistance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from certain viruses which cause disease in plants. Virus resistance makes plants less susceptible to diseases caused by such viruses, resulting in higher crop yields.

Health Risks

  • The biggest concern regarding GMO’s is that there is not enough information as of today concerning its effects on human health. (No reliable ways to test GM food for allergies)
  • No peer reviewed publications of clinical studies of its risks exist so far.(However multiple animal testings were performed in which rats dies after consuming GM food,  had difficulty digesting GM corn, rats experiences slight weight gain after consuming GM food)
  • Industry uses compositional comparison between GMO and non-GMO food and if there are no substantial differences they are regarded as equivalent
  • GM food can produce allergies
  • May cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics
  • Much better testing methods are required before making GM food available or human consumption.

Examples

Roughly 86% of corn and 93% of soy grown conventionally in the U.S. is genetically modified, and the “natural” chickens are fed conventional corn and soy.

Examples of non organic products which are most likely are always genetically modified:

Soy (91%), Canola (88%), Corn (85%), Sugar Beets (90%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), Alfalfa (unknown), Zucchini and Yellow Squash (small amount), Tobacco (Quest® brand.

Latest development in GM product is pesticidal potato. It used to be that farmers merely sprayed pesticides on potatoes. Now, however, these new potatoes are engineered to produce pesticides in each of their cells. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the pesticidal potato because it does not have the authority to regulate pesticides; that responsibility, it claims, falls on the Environmental Protection Agency. However, EPA says that it does not have authority to regulate pesticidal potato because it dose not have an authority to regulate food products. Therefore, such genetically modified products are for the most part unregulated, however, are still sold to consumers.

Are natural flavors healthier than artificial flavors?

The definition of natural flavor under the Code of Federal Regulations is: “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional”

  • The distinction between natural and artificial flavoring depends on the source of the identical chemicals.
  • Artificial flavorings are simpler in composition and potentially safer because only safety-tested components are utilized.
  • Difference between natural and artificial flavorings is cost.
  • The federal Food and Drug Administration does not require companies to disclose the ingredients of their color or flavor additives so long as all the chemicals in them are considered by the agency to be GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”)

Example

Real vanilla flavor comes from vanilla beans. An “artificial” source of vanilla flavor comes from castoreum, which is part of the anal sac of beavers. Being animal derived, is considered a natural flavoring by the FDA and therefore can show up on labels simply as “natural flavoring:.

“All Natural” Products

  1. “Food Should Taste Good”
  2. “So Delicious”
  3. “Amy’s”
  4. “Vita Coco”

Examples of Products which abuse “All Natural” Label

1. Modern Products All Natural Vege-Sal All Purpose Vegetized Seasoning Salt

“NO MSG ADDED”
Ingredients: Soy Sauce, Hydrolized Vegetable Protein

2. Hain Pure Foods All Natural Chicken Broth
“No Added MSG”
Chicken Broth, Chicken Base, Autolyzed Yeast Extract

3. Susanna’s Shortbread Key Lime Flavor, Salt

Powder), Vanilla, Natural Autolyzed yeast extract

4.Ben and Jerry All Natural Ice Cream

 Alkalized cocoa, corn syrup and artificial vanilla

Summary

In order to make healthy consumer choices, blind fully trusting the label is often not enough. Such labels as “All Natural” and “Natural” are often misused by producers in order to trick consumers into paying more money for the products which are not necessary healthy and often are not at all “Natural”. It is impossible to trace if a particular “Natural” product does not contains genetically modified ingredients. One way in which consumer can protect himself at least slightly is by carefully reading the ingredient list to see if the product contains any of the above mentioned ingredients which may be a hidden MSG. As it was described above natural or artificial ingredients are never fully disclosed on the labels and therefore may be hiding disturbing ingredients which may not be appropriate for vegetarians or vegans.     

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