Michael Pollan Says “Natural” No Longer Means Anything

michael pollan

The meaning of the word “natural” seems to have lost its cultural value, as everything from childbirth, to chips and wine now boast being “natural.” In fact, according to Michael Pollan, writing for the New York Times, the word has lost its value in the absence of a hard-and-fast definition—especially as it applies to food and drink.

It’s no surprise that over the past few years some people have taken issue with the way the label “natural” is being thrown around, leading to legal action and a gaggle of judges searching for a standard. Recently, several of those judges attempted to establish one with the help of The Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

But one glance at the FDA website shows that they too are struggling to figure out what to do with the pesky word—their entire position on the issue so far summed up in these three sentences:

“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.”

The perceived meaning of what’s “natural” certainly has ramifications beyond how it’s defined by a government, but setting down some defined rules may help the word gain back some of its meaning. [New York Times][Photo: Flickr/PopTech]