Foods labeled ‘natural’ have come under scrutiny from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA has opened a 90-day comment period, which began on Nov. 12 and runs through Feb. 10, to allow the public to provide information and comments on the use of the term in the labeling of human food products.
Its review follows three Citizen Petitions asking the agency to define the term “natural” for use in food labeling. One petition had asked the agency prohibit to the term “natural” on food labels.
There has also been litigation between private parties, resulting in some federal courts requesting the agency to determine whether food products containing ingredients produced using genetic engineering or foods containing high fructose corn syrup may be labeled as “natural.”
Until this point, the FDA stance on the use of “natural” food labeling has been to consider the term 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 it.
Additionally, its policy failed 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.
Using to describe any nutritional or other health benefit had not previously been considered.
The FDA is asking the public to comment on whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural,” how the agency should then define it and how the term should be used on food labels.