FDA extends 'natural' deadline

4 Jan 2016

In direct response to requests from the public, the FDA has extended the comment period for the use of the term “natural” on food labelling. The comment period will now end on May 10, 2016.

FDA extends 'natural' deadline

In direct response to requests from the public, the FDA has extended the comment period for the use of the term “natural” on food labelling. The comment period will now end on May 10, 2016. Due to the complexity of this issue, the FDA said it is committed to providing the public with more time to submit comments. The FDA will thoroughly review all public comments and information submitted before determining its next steps.

The FDA is taking this action in part because it received three Citizen Petitions asking that the agency define the term “natural” for use in food labelling and one Citizen Petition asking that the agency prohibit the term “natural” on food labels. The FDA also notes that some federal courts, as a result of litigation between private parties, have requested administrative determinations from the FDA regarding whether food products containing ingredients produced using genetic engineering or foods containing high fructose corn syrup may be labelled as “natural.”

Although the FDA has not engaged in rulemaking to establish a formal definition for the term “natural,” it says it does have a longstanding policy concerning the use of “natural” in human food labelling. The FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all colour 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. However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurisation, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.

Specifically, the FDA asks for information and public comment on questions such as:

Whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural,”

If so, how the agency should define “natural,” and

How the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels.