7-Up Ad Claims Soda is '100 Percent Natural'

ByABC News
May 11, 2006, 6:22 PM

May 11, 2006 — -- Amidst the juices and waters you might choose when looking for a healthy beverage, you probably wouldn't think to grab a soda to satisfy that thirst.

But can you?

The makers of 7-Up are now promoting the carbonated beverage as "100 percent natural," and a non-profit group wants the ads changed.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest says the ad is misleading, and wants the company to be honest with consumers.

The lemon-flavored drink contains high fructose corn syrup, which they say is artificially made by extracting starch from corn and altering it with enzymes or acids.

Cadbury Schwepps, the maker of 7-Up, and says it is in fact natural, because sugar made from corn is made virtually the same way as many ingredients that are called natural.

The debate over the 7-Up ad campaign raises a larger issue: What exactly does "natural" mean when it comes to food.

"'Natural,' as it stands, is not currently defined by the FDA, so there is some issue there," said Daniel Fabricant of the National Nutritional Foods Association.

There is a strict government definition for what it means to call a food "organic," but the requirements a company has to meet in order to call a food "natural" are not nearly so stringent. For meats and poultry the definition says there can be no artificial ingredients, but all other foods can be called natural with no clear definition.

The natural label appears on products as diverse as oatmeal, potato chips, cookies and ice cream.

"You can't really assume if a product says 'all natural' that it means it is nutritious. It may be high in sugar, it may be high in salt," said ABC News medical contributor Dr. David Katz.

The FDA has been asked to define what "natural" means, but for now the agency says manufacturers' labels must be truthful and not misleading.