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IDFA Seeks Extension for Comments on ‘Natural’ Labeling

Dec 22, 2015

IDFA asked the Food and Drug Administration today for a 90-day extension for submitting comments on the use of the term “natural” in labeling food products. Because the questions are complex and the agency hasn’t reviewed its policy on using “natural” since the 1990s, IDFA said the extension would allow more time for deeper analysis and feedback.

“Many of IDFA’s member companies have brand names and product names with labeling claims that have a long history of using the term ‘natural,’ such as the use of the term ‘natural cheese,’” IDFA told FDA. “Thus, FDA’s reaction to the comments provided will likely have a significant impact on the dairy industry.”

Currently, FDA considers the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic, including colors, has been added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. 

In its call for comments, FDA asked whether it should define the term “natural” and, if so, how. The call also requested input regarding how the agency should determine the appropriate use of “natural” on food labels. FDA specifically asked whether the use of the term “natural” should consider factors including agriculture production practices, such as genetic engineering and use of pesticides, and food manufacturing methods, such as pasteurization, drying and fermentation.  

Following a petition from the Sugar Association, FDA also is considering aligning its definition for “natural” with the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), which regulates meat, poultry and eggs. The FSIS definition states that “natural” products may not contain an artificial flavor, coloring, chemical preservative or other synthetic ingredient and the products and ingredients must be “minimally processed.”

Because FSIS doesn’t regulate the dairy industry, IDFA and members want additional time to evaluate how this proposed alignment would affect dairy products. The current deadline is February 10, and IDFA has asked for an extension until May 10, 2016.

For more information, contact Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, at

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