Publication Details

This article was originally published as Williams, PG, Markoska, J, Chachay, V and McMahon, A, 'Natural' claims on foods : a review of regulations and a pilot study of the views of Australian consumers, Food Australia, 61(9), 2009, 383-389. Original journal article available here


The term ‘natural’ is often used on food labels, but is unregulated in Australia, except for prohibitions on misleading and deceptive conduct in the Trade Practices Act. This pilot study aimed to review definitions and regulations of ‘natural’ in Australia and internationally; record the ingredients used in a sample of foods marketed as natural; and examine consumer expectations about which ingredients could suitably be labeled natural. A survey of food labels at 12 food outlets recorded ingredients commonly used in foods marketed as natural. Consumer expectations were examined with a questionnaire about 25 ‘natural’ food ingredients. One hundred and nineteen participants were sourced from clients of a weight loss clinic, and staff from three workplaces. Only the USA has a legally enforceable definition of ‘natural’ and in Australia there are three sets of different guidelines. Over 680 different ingredients were found in products with a ‘natural’ claim. Consumer perspectives varied on the suitability of many common ingredients with no real consensus, but the main concerns related to the level and type of processing, and the artificiality or unfamiliarity of ingredients. Consumer expectations about suitable ingredients do not always coincide with current guidelines. A clear definition is necessary to guide manufacturers; however, given the lack of consumer consensus, this may be difficult to develop.