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NewsBites February 2016 Issue

FDA Seeks Comments on "Natural" Labeling


You may think the term "natural" on a food label connotes all kinds of positive attributes. To the US Food and Drug Administration, however, "natural" officially means almost nothing. That could be about to change, though, as the agency has opened a comment period on use of the controversial term: "Because of the changing landscape of food ingredients and production, and in direct response to consumers who have requested that the FDA explore the use of the term 'natural,' the agency is asking the public to provide information and comments on the use of this term in the labeling of human food products." The FDA also noted that some federal courts have asked for a ruling on the term’s definition as part of lawsuits against manufacturers labeling foods “natural” even when, for example, a product contains high-fructose corn syrup or genetically modified (GMO) ingredients.

The move came as a surprise, as the FDA has avoided wading into the controversy since 1993, when it defined "natural" as meaning: "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 the food." That "guidance" was not binding, however, and did not take into consideration "whether the term ‘natural’ should describe any nutritional or other health benefit."

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