USA, Washington. Americans gave their views on the “natural” term in the International Food Information Council Foundation’s (IFIC) 2016 Food and Health Survey. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering whether to do the same.
The IFIC survey also revealed favorable views on protein, especially plant protein, and not-so-favorable views on artificial ingredients or preservatives.
When asked what the term natural means when applied to food, 29% said no preservatives or additives. Other top answers in the open-ended question were natural ingredients or straight from nature or whole foods at 19%, no artificial ingredients or flavors at 17%, no chemicals or hormones or pesticides or antibiotics at 14%, and no processing at 11%.
The FDA recently asked for public comment on such questions as whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural”, if so, how the agency should define “natural”, and how the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels. The comment period ended 10 May.
Thirty-seven per cent of Americans said they were trying to limit or avoid packaged foods. The top three reasons for doing so were artificial ingredients or preservatives; extra sugar, fat and salt; and a belief that packaged foods are not healthy. Forty-seven per cent said they look at the ingredient lists on foods or beverage packages when deciding what to purchase, which was up from 40% in 2015.
Protein stood out in this year’s survey as 64% of Americans reported they were trying to consume more of the nutrient, up from 54% last year. Protein replaced fiber (60% this year) and whole grains (59% this year) as the top item consumers were trying to consume more of. Women and people with higher incomes were more likely to say they were trying to consume more protein. In keeping with the natural trend, the IFIC survey for the first time included natural flavors (41%) and natural colors (31%) in this question.
Within the protein category, 12% said they considered animal protein more healthful this year than they did last year, and 15% said they considered it less healthful. For protein from plant sources, 21% said they considered it more healthful this year than they did last year, and 8% said they considered it less healthful.