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FDA Requests Comments on Labeling Food as “Natural”

On November 12, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began accepting comments on the use of the term “natural” on food labels.  FDA asked three specific questions in its Constituent Update:

  • Is it appropriate to define the term “natural”?
  • How should the agency define “natural”?
  • How should FDA determine appropriate use of the term on food labels?

FDA’s Current View on the term “Natural”

FDA has not established a formal definition for the term “natural”.  According to the agency, 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.”

Factors that FDA does not currently consider include, but are not limited to, whether food products may be labeled as “natural” if they:

  • Are produced using genetic engineering
  • Contain high fructorse corn syrup
  • Are produced under certain food processing or manufacturing methods, such as those using pesticides, thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation

FDA also does not currently consider whether the term “natural” should describe a nutritional or health benefit.  FDA is looking for input on all of these factors.

Why Now?

Back in 1991, FDA decided not to define the term “natural” due to its widespread use and evidence that showed consumers regarded many uses of the term as non-informative. The agency felt that defining the term “could remove some ambiguity surrounding use of the term that results in misleading claims”.

FDA is now reconsidering defining “natural” because of recent industry input. Since 2006, FDA has received three Citizen Petitions asking the agency to define the term “natural” for use on food labels and one Citizen Petition asking that the term be prohibited.

FDA is accepting comments through May 10, 2016.  (The comment period was originally set to close on February 10, 2016, but FDA expanded the deadline upon request from the public.)  Submit a comment here.

Registrar Corp stays up-to-date on U.S. FDA food labeling regulations and will continue to update industry as FDA’s decision on use of the term “natural” progresses.  Registrar Corp offers a Label and Ingredient Review Service through which our Regulatory Specialists will review a food label for FDA compliance, including the Nutrition Facts Chart and any claims made on the label. For questions or assistance with FDA food labeling regulations, contact us at +1-757-224-0177 or chat with a Regulatory Advisor 24-hours a day at www.registrarcorp.com/livehelp.