Consumers are reading labels more than ever and becoming increasingly suspicious of the food industry and science in general. Many really don’t believe that the industry has the consumer’s health in mind. Some consumers are even suspicious of the words “natural flavor” appearing on the label.
I have to admit—even I don’t like seeing a short dissertation on an ingredient declaration. But what is “natural?” The US Food and Drug Administration has a definition of “natural flavor,” but that doesn’t apply to the non-flavor part of the product. Items such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), monosodium glutamate (MSG) and autolyzed yeast extract (AYE) are commonly used in savory flavors, but many consumers wouldn’t consider them natural. Yet, all have a reasonable claim to natural status. So far, other than the US Department of Agriculture’s designation for “minimally processed” meat products, there have been limited attempts to define “all natural.”
Often, food manufacturers refer to the guidelines published by Whole Foods, Inc. as a way to determine if the ingredient they are using falls into the all natural category. However, products that are “Whole Foods compliant” may contain HVP, polysorbate 80 and propylene glycol.