As part of a settlement in a 2011 class action lawsuit, Kellogg will agree to drop the terms "all natural" and "nothing artificial" from the packaging of its Kashi products, the New York Times is reporting.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit sued after realizing that Kashi uses chemicals such as hexane—which is a component of gasoline—to process other ingredients in its products. While these ingredients occur naturally, manufacturers often use synthetic versions to cut costs and ensure consistency. Kellogg has said that it stands by its advertising. It will also change the formulas or labels of its products by the end of the year, according to a statement.
The change doesn't mean much for consumers, though it reinforces how important it is to read the labels on products and to be wary of the term "natural" since there is no clear definition for the word when it comes to food labels. "People want to believe that something was just plucked from the ground and is unadulterated," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., author of Read It Before You Eat It. "But that's not what companies are giving people."
In fact, even the FDA doesn't know how to define the term, though it says on its website that it "has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances." Essentially, there's nothing to stop companies from slapping the term on some labels and calling a product "natural."
In this situation, "any company that is willing to clean up their food labels and provide ingredients that are recognizable deserves applause," Taub-Dix says.
Keep reading labels when you shop. If you need some help decoding the nuances of the nutrition labels or ingredients in your food, check out these 10 food label lies you might still be falling for and then tell us: What do you think of this news? Sound off below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine!