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Pressure on USDA to Tighten Policy on 'Natural' Label

by 5m Editor
25 February 2010, at 11:09a.m.

US - Senator Barbara Boxer has commended Foster Farms' for its campaign for raising consumer awareness about sodium, and is calling on the USDA to tighten its policy on the use of 'natural' labels for fresh foods.

Foster Farms, the West Coast's leading poultry brand, supports US Senator Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) announcement calling for the USDA to take a closer look at labeling regulations that permit sodium-injected – or 'plumped' – chicken products to carry the 'natural' label.

Senator Boxer commended Foster Farms' commitment to raising consumer awareness about truly natural fresh poultry products and the misleading practice of injecting – or plumping – fresh chicken with added saltwater and still calling it "natural."

She said: "In my own home state of California, poultry companies are to be commended for raising consumer awareness about what 'natural' labelling should really mean."

During the press conference, Senator Boxer quoted findings from a Foster Farms consumer survey which found that "more than two-thirds of consumers who purchased sodium injected chicken were unaware that it contained sodium additives." Chicken labeled 'natural' can contain up to 500 percent more sodium than truly natural, no saltwater added, fresh chicken. Under current guidelines, both plumped and truly 'natural' poultry can be labelled 'natural'.

Ira Brill, Director of Marketing for Foster Farms, said: "At Foster Farms, we believe that 'natural' labelled chicken should be just that – fresh, raw chicken – not chicken loaded with saltwater and additives that's been trucked across the country to your grocery store. Consumers need to be able to rely on food labels; they need to know what they're buying. For Foster Farms, 'natural' means fresh, locally grown with no additives, preservatives or saltwater."

In just four months, Foster Farms' 'Say No to Plumping' consumer awareness campaign generated more than 20,000 petition signatures from consumers who want the USDA to preserve the term 'natural' for truly natural fresh foods, free of saltwater, additives or preservatives.

According to a recent research study led by Dr Bibbins-Domingo from the University of California at San Francisco, reducing sodium intake by 1,200 mg a day (equivalent to approximately half a teaspoon of salt) could lead to a significant decrease in the number of heart disease cases, heart attacks and death. The study also projects reduction in sodium intake could add up to big savings for Americans – up to $24 billion savings in annual health care costs. The study also found that the health benefits of reducing sodium intake could be equivalent to those resulting from smoking cessation, weight loss and using cholesterol medication.

"We appreciate Sen. Boxer's commitment to resolving the issue of 'natural' labelling," said Brill.

How can consumers ensure their chicken is truly natural?

  1. Depend on brands, like locally grown Foster Farms, that do not 'plump' their fresh, natural chicken.
  2. Read the label. Don't depend on 'natural' to guide you. Even 'plumped' chicken can be legally touted as 'natural'. Instead, look to the nutrition label on the back of the package: truly natural chicken should have no more than 75 mg sodium per 4 oz serving.
  3. Take a stand. Send a message to the USDA regarding 'natural' labeling of plumped chicken. Sign a petition against plumping at www.saynotoplumping.com/petition.