What’s ‘Natural’ Food? The Government Isn’t Sure And Wants Your Input

I’m sure you have an opinion about what “natural” means when it comes to food. The good news: the FDA wants to hear from you; the bad news: it wants to hear from everyone else having a stake in the definition, including the processed food corporations. NPR reports on the coming fiasco:

The Food and Drug Administration is seeking your input to answer a question: How should the agency define “natural” on food labels?


Disagreement over what “all natural” or “100 percent natural” means has spawned dozens of lawsuits. Consumers have challenged the naturalness of all kinds of food products.

For instance, can a product that contains high fructose corn syrup be labeled as natural? What about products that contain genetically modified ingredients?

The FDA has received three citizen petitions asking for clarification. And, beginning Thursday, the agency will ask us — the public — to weigh in. Comments can be submitted electronically.

As my colleague Dan Charles has reported, developing a comprehensive, legal definition for this buzzword may be tough. After all, saying something is natural is a little bit like saying something is beautiful. The judgment is in the eye of the beholder.

We called up Ivan Wasserman, a lawyer with the firm Manatt, Phelps & Philips who tracks this issue. Our conversation is edited for clarity and length.

The Food and Drug Administration is asking people to weigh in on a definition for the term “natural” on food labels. Will this process lead to a new rule — a codified, legal definition?

By requesting comments, the FDA is obligated to review them. So, [the agency] has certainly taken on a big project in simply announcing this. But it has not announced that it’s creating a new rule or definition…

[continues at NPR]

majestic

Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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