- The burgeoning questions about food labeling are prompting the FDA to ask the public about the term "natural." The agency wants information and comments regarding "natural" on human food items and is taking comments starting Thursday.
- Three citizen petitions arrived at the FDA asking to define "natural" in food labeling, with one asking to ban the term.
- On its website, the FDA said federal courts have asked the agency for administrative decisions regarding food products with genetically-engineered ingredients or foods with high fructose corn syrup and if they can wear a "natural" label.
The FDA wants comment on issues including:
- Whether it is appropriate to define the term "natural,"
- If so, how the agency should define "natural," and
- How the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels.
The agency's policy when it comes to "natural" is that it means nothing artificial or synthetic — including color additives — is in a food that would not normally be there. The policy was not designed to take into account food production methods like pesticides nor manufacturing processes like pasteurization or irradiation. The FDA also did not take into account whether the term denoted a nutrition or health designation.
This discussion has been a long time coming for the industry, as the term is one that's been at the forefront of court cases and debates.
If the comments lead to an administrative decision, it could greatly impact the ways major processed food companies label products, including intense rebranding efforts. Companies are already removing artificial ingredients from products in an effort to stay on trend with consumers, though the results of these comments could mean those moves are one of many changes to come.