F.D.A. bows to pressure, but is it too late?

by Laurie Gorton
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Natural Product label
The F.D.A. wants comments on whether it is appropriate to define the word “natural.”

Well, the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) finally bowed to pressure and opened a public discussion of the use of the term “natural” on food labels. Courts have litigated this term. Watchdog groups have denounced it. Consumers have questioned it. Now, finally, the F.D.A. asks for information and public comment.

The agency’s announcement of this initiative is careful to note that, to date, it has not engaged in rulemaking to set a formal definition of the term, but it does have a long-standing policy that “natural” in labeling of human food means that it contains nothing artificial or synthetic, including color additives regardless of source. That policy does not address use of pesticides or manufacturing methods.

The F.D.A. wants comments on whether it is appropriate to define the word “natural.” On how it should be defined. And how the agency can determine appropriate use of the word on food labels. All are good questions, but why now? Don’t you think this is a little late?

When food marketers started getting pushback from consumer advocates questioning use of the term “natural” on food labels, they were quick to move along to other terms such as “simple” and “free from.”

To comment, visit www.regulations.com and type “FDA-2014-N-1207” in the search box.
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