Nutritional Noise: Community Literacies and the Movement Against Foods Labeled as 'Natural'

Erin Trauth


In the face of the $44 billion market—and rising—for foods labeled as “natural” despite any formal regulatory oversight on the use of this term, this article examines multiple complex layers of community literacies and movements involving foods labeled as “natural,” including an increasing availability of “natural” foods and simultaneous rise in U.S. obesity rates, as well as grassroots movements that have challenged the use of “natural.” Then, using an online survey of 707 respondents in a localized community setting, I provide my own examination of literacies of “natural” foods by assessing specific consumer interpretations and regulatory knowledge of the word “natural” as it is found on food labels. Ultimately, I discuss what role these varying levels of literacies play in the rising U.S. movement to push back against the use of this claim in the face of an otherwise flourishing “natural” food market. 

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Publication of the Community Literacy Journal is made possible through the generous support of the English Department and the Writing and Rhetoric Program at Florida International University. The CLJ is a journal of the Conference on Community Writing.