European and American perspectives on the meaning of natural

Appetite. 2012 Oct;59(2):448-55. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.06.001. Epub 2012 Jun 12.


Attitudes to natural foods and genetically modified organisms, assessed by multiple choice items, definitions of natural, and free associations to the word "natural" were determined for a representative sample of adults from France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the U.K., and the U.S.A. Individuals in all countries had a very positive attitude to natural. There is a surprising degree of similarity in conceptions of natural across the six countries, with a focus of food (and beverages) as central to the idea of natural, and links to the ideas of biological, healthy, plants, and the environment. Demographic differences (e.g., sex, education) were also small. Analysis of definitions and free associations suggests, and other data confirm, that across all countries, natural is defined principally by the absence of certain "negative" features (e.g., additives, pollution, human intervention), rather than the presence of certain positive features. Across all countries, plants, and in particular, plant foods, are more frequent exemplars of "natural" than are animals, with green the dominant color associated with natural. There is opposition to genetic engineering, which can be thought to be the opposite of natural, in all countries, but it is highest in continental Europe and lowest in the U.S.A.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Europe
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Food, Genetically Modified
  • Food, Organic
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • United States
  • Young Adult