FDA seeks input on ‘natural’ food labels

This piece originally appeared on supermarketnews.com

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The FDA is soliciting comments on the use of the term “natural” on food labeling in direct response to consumers and federal courts that have requested that it explore use of the term.

Specifically, the FDA is seeking information and public comment on questions such as:

  • Whether it is appropriate to define the term natural.
  • If so, how the agency should define natural.
  • How the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels.

The move comes in response to three citizen petitions asking that the agency define the term natural for use in food labeling and one citizen petition asking that the FDA prohibit the term natural on food labels. As a result of litigation between private parties some federal courts have also requested administrative determinants from the FDA whether foods containing genetically engineered ingredients or high fructose corn syrup may be labeled as natural.

“Although the FDA has not engaged in rulemaking to establish a formal definition for the term ‘natural,’ we do have a longstanding policy concerning the use of ‘natural’ in human food labeling,” said the FDA in a press release. “The FDA has considered the term ‘natural’ to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term ‘natural’ should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.”

The FDA is accepting public comments beginning Thursday. Comments can be submitted electronically by visiting http://www.regulations.gov and typing FDA-2014-N-1207 in the search box.

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