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Dairy Facts 2016

Seeking Input, FDA to Consider Definition for ‘Natural’

Nov 12, 2015

The Food and Drug Administration announced this week that it will accept public comments regarding “natural” label claims and whether the agency should set a definition for the term “natural.” The request for comment is in response to multiple citizen petitions asking for a definition, as well as numerous requests from judges overseeing lawsuits related to natural claims.

Currently, there is no FDA regulation that defines “natural” for labeling purposes, but the agency has a longstanding policy that prohibits products from being labeled as “natural” if they contain synthetic ingredients, artificial flavors or added color that a consumer would not normally expect in a product.

The current policy was not intended to address methods of production, such as the use of genetic engineering or nutritional or health benefits that could be implied as part of such a claim. The policy also does not address the use of the term “natural” to address statements regarding natural cheese.

The absence of a federal regulation for “natural” or “all natural” claims has resulted in a large number of class-action lawsuits against food companies, alleging that consumers are misled by “all-natural claims” on products that contain specific ingredients derived synthetically or from biotechnology.   

Based on four citizen petitions asking FDA to address natural claims and requests from federal courts, the agency has opened a docket to receive public comments regarding “natural” claims, including whether a definition is needed for “natural,” what the definition should include or exclude and how the claim should be allowed to be used on labels.

Read the comment request here.

Members with questions may contact Cary Frye, IDFA vice president for regulatory and scientific affairs, at or (202) 737-4332.

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