Based on survey results showing American consumers often misunderstand what “natural” means on food labels, Consumer Reports is calling for an end to the designation. Unlike the “organic” designation, which comes with the backing of strict U.S. government specifications and verification of production practices, food companies use the “natural” term largely at their own discretion.

For meat products, the USDA defines “natural” as containing no artificial ingredient or added color and only minimally processed, a description that fits virtually all products in the fresh meat case. Meat companies have, however, extended the definition to identify products from livestock raised without antibiotics, growth promotants or other specifications, and several natural brands have become well accepted and established in the marketplace.

According to results of the Consumer Reports national survey, 59 percent of consumers check to see if the products they are buying are "natural." However, the survey results also indicate significant misunderstanding of what the term means, with more than 80 percent believing natural means food grown without pesticides and containing no genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Also according to the survey results, 92 percent of consumers want to support local farmers when purchasing food, while 89 percent want to protect the environment from chemicals, 87 percent want to reduce exposure to pesticides, 86 percent want fair conditions for workers, 80 percent want good living conditions for animals and 78 percent want less use of antibiotics in food production.

Based on their survey results, Consumer Reports is joining with TakePart, a digital news & lifestyle magazine, in a campaign called “Know your labels, know your food,” calling for a ban on the "natural" label on food. According to the TakePart website, the organization is a division of Participant Media, the company behind films such as An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc., Contagion and The Help.

Read more in a release from Consumer Reports.