The FDA is requesting feedback on the use of the term "natural" in food labeling. The action is a response to consumers who have requested that the administration explore the use of the term "natural" on food labels, considering the changing landscape of food ingredients and production. The administration is accepting comments through February 10, 2016.
While the FDA has not engaged in rulemaking to establish a formal definition for the term "natural," it notes that it does have a longstanding policy concerning the use of "natural" in human food labeling. Three Citizen Petitions have asked that the agency define the term "natural" for use in food labeling and another Citizen Petition requested that the agency prohibit the term "natural" on food labels.
According to a recent FDA statement:
"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." The FDA notes that this policy was not intended to address food production methods, including the use of pesticides, and it did not explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also states that it did not consider whether the term "natural" should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.
The FDA asks for information and public comment on questions 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.
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