August 31, 2011
It comes as no surprise to learn that Kix cereal is not a product culled directly from a pristine corn field in an hitherto untouched crevace in New Zealand. Kix cereal, to start, contains Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs.
In fact one report points out that many products are labeled "All Natural" yet they all include GMOs:
The outcry against GMOs from other countries has been heeded by some companies, who now sell non-GMO products in countries that have raised a voice against them. (For example, Hershey has developed non-GMO product for Europe, but not for the US, where consumers are not as excited about GMOs. The EU says it is addressing legislation that seeks to give European nations the ability to authorize, limit, or ban GMOs in their respective countries.)
Food and beverages are considered manufactured products. It's has its own unique supply chain kinks and its own regulatory lists to follow and additive lists to avoid.
The ins and outs of tracking ingredients, labeling, agency reporting and public communications is big business -- at least -- companies that sell automated chemical tracking and labeling systems for manufactured goods.
So what does All Natural mean, anyway?
It's essentially semantics, therein lies the balancing act between label and liability.
Years ago it came up that foods labeled "all natural" sometimes contain MSG. From there, the quest for meaning really began in earnest at the consumer level.
The term "natural" applies broadly. According to the FDA, the term "natural" tends to indicate (notice how vague that classification is: tends to indicate... and perhaps we can all better appreciate now the efforts required of Quality Managers trying to stay within the lines of compliance requirements -- the designations are slightly arbitrary indeed) foods that are minimally processed and free of:
- synthetic preservatives
- artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and other artificial additives
- growth hormones
- hydrogenated oils
Most foods labeled "natural" are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and heath codes that apply to all foods (exceptions include meat and poultry).
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSTS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires "all natural" products to be free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and ingredients that do not occur naturally in the food. Natural meat and poultry must be minimally processed by using a method that does not fundamentally alter the raw product. In addition, the label should explain the use of the term natural, for instance, no artificial ingredients.
"Organic," on the other hand, refers not only to the food itself but also to how it was produced. Foods labeled organic must be certified under the National Organic Program (NOP)(called "NOPe" by some), a program that took effect October 21, 2002.
To be labeled organic, food must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources produced. Crops must be grown without using synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and be given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic foods may not be irradiated.
Hard as it is to believe, those Kix orange puff balls did not grow up from the ground in an Iowan corn field. As far as GMOs, the jury is still out as to whether they make a product unnatural, but for now they sure make for good business.