In comments filed last week with the food safety and labeling arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, IDFA supports the continuation of a flexible, case-by-case approval process for "natural" claims on dairy product labels. Instead of new regulations, IDFA urges the agency to update current guidance and clarify that different uses of the term are acceptable, depending on context.
IDFA filed the comments with USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which has jurisdiction over labeling of meat and poultry products, including meat-topped pizzas and cheeseburgers. The agency has considered rulemaking on "natural" claims since 2006. It recently requested additional information because the comments received nearly three years ago demonstrated significant industry disagreement on the issue.
IDFA opposes rulemaking that would develop a rigid definition of natural, because determining whether a ‘‘natural'' claim is true and not misleading often depends on the context in which the claim is used. Phrases such as "made with natural flavors" or "naturally and artificially flavored," for example, should be allowed as long as they truthfully represent the product.
"This is the same conclusion reached by the Federal Trade Commission, the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration when the agencies undertook an extensive review of the term 'natural' in advertising and labeling in the 1970s," the comments stated.
The comments also support the continued use of the term "natural cheese," which has been used for decades and helps consumers to differentiate between natural cheese products and processed cheese. In addition, IDFA believes that natural claims should focus on the ingredients used in the labeled food product, not on food-processing methods that may be considered non-traditional by FSIS standards. Many current standards of identity for cheese allow for alternate methods of making cheese, as long as the end product meets the standard's requirements for composition.
Although dairy products used as ingredients in meat and poultry products, like the cheese on a pepperoni pizza, are regulated by FSIS, most dairy products are regulated by FDA. IDFA urged the agencies to work together before taking action to ensure that all federal policy on natural claims is consistent.
- Read IDFA's comments here.
For more information, contact Michelle Matto, IDFA assistant director of nutrition and labeling, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-737-4332.