- FDA announced it will push back the deadline for public comments, including from food industry groups, regarding whether the agency should define what "natural" should mean on food and beverage product packaging and what those guidelines might entail.
- The Natural Products Association (NPA) requested that the FDA extend the original Feb. 10 deadline for public comments by 90 days so it could solicit comments from its members.
- The deadline for submission of public comments has been extended to May 10.
"Defining 'natural' is a major undertaking, and NPA feels that no harm will result from FDA extending the comment period due to the interest, significance, and complexities surrounding the topic," Dan Fabricant, NPA’s executive director and CEO, said in a December news release.
Currently, the FDA's policy on "natural" for product labeling means that the product does not contain anything artificial or synthetic, such as colors and flavorings, that would not normally be there. This policy does not address genetically modified foods or ingredients, use of pesticides, manufacturing processes like pasteurization or irradiation, or ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. The FDA has also not explicitly designated "natural" as a nutrition versus health term.
Defining "natural" would be a game-changer for food and beverage manufacturers, leading to the need for significant rebranding efforts and impacting litigation regarding use of the term. Many companies have begun removing artificial ingredients from their products, regardless of whether those products bear the term "natural" on their labels.
The FDA has already fielded thousands of public comments regarding the "natural" definition. This is the first time the FDA is formally addressing the term since 1993.