Most health-conscious shoppers look for food labelled “natural.” But the buzzword isn’t subject to any official oversight and does not guarantee a healthier product, experts say.

“Without oversight or legal definition, the natural label can be little more than a marketing tool that can fool consumers,” said Urvashi Rangan of Consumer Reports.

A survey shows two thirds of shoppers prefer to buy processed food labelled “natural.” Most of them assume the product is free of toxic pesticides, artificial ingredients or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

“The problem is the natural label doesn’t guarantee any of this,” Rangan said. “There are no government standards.”

Manufacturers are allowed to use artificial ingredients and still label their food “natural.”

Rangan said legislation has to be passed that ensures a certain standard when a food is called “natural.”

“We believe that for processed foods, the natural label should mean organic plus no artificial ingredients and there should be verification required just like there is for the organic label so consumers can be assured of what they’re buying,” she said.

Meanwhile, consumers should always check the fine print on “natural” foods make sure a product doesn’t contain any ingredients they’re trying to avoid.

With a Consumer Alert from Pat Foran