What is “natural?” Define it literally to avoid a lawsuit

There has been a recent trend in lawsuits with consumers claiming food products have been misleadingly labeled as containing “natural” flavors and ingredients, when in fact they were “artificial” powders, extracts or other flavorings rather than the original source itself. Food producers, of course, believed that the use of the term “natural” was accurate because the flavoring additive itself was made from the original flavor source. For example, a cereal manufacturer was sued for describing “natural maple flavor” but did not actually use maple syrup in the product. The flavoring was derived from maple, but consumers did not consider this as “natural.” Kelloggs was sued for describing “natural vinegar” taste on its Pringles containers but only a nominal amount of actual vinegar is used to make or flavor them. Most of the flavor is from the flavor additives. The takeaway is to be careful when describing your food and beverage products and use the terms literally to avoid deceptive advertising claims. In this farm to table movement, consumers care more about the source of their food and are more likely to complain if they learn it is anything but pure and from the original source. If you add flavors from extracts, be careful about calling them “natural flavors” if they have been processed beyond purely distilling the alcohols to concentrate the flavors.