As more and more consumers are aware of the possible adverse effect of food processing such as loss of nutrients and the addition of additives, natural food is gaining popularity.
It got all of us thinking- What is the most accurate definition for natural food?
The term natural on its own as define by Meriam Webster is being in accordance with or determined by nature.
I would then assume natural food should undergo no processing or minimal processing that does not change the nature of our food such as washing and sorting. But, is that what we have in our market place?
From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.
Source: http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm214868.htmNatural fruit juice, for example, is natural because the juice is squeeze out, pasteurized and packaged without additional additives. The pasteurization enable the juice to be refrigerated without food safety concern. The question is can we accept this definition of natural? Food processing still takes place - the pasteurization that degrade some of the vitamins in the fruit juice and the need of continuous refrigeration to ensure food safety.
Another example, natural fish sources from the ocean. I am sure everyone have heard of heavy metal contamination such as mercury in the fishes. Natural fish with natural contamination from the environment- is it a natural product that we like to have in our diet?
To me, the term natural does not warrants that the food is completely free of food processing and for those who opt for non-processed food, think of a balance of the "natural food" and the level of processing needed to ensure our food is safe to be consume.