FDA Begins Considering What Foods are “Natural”
Posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 at 8:01 am
We have all seen packages of food that have the word “natural” on them. Have you ever wondered what that really means? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has started questioning it. They are now considering what foods can be labeled as “natural”, and are seeking public input about it.
People who seek out natural foods to feed their families are doing so because they want to help keep their families healthy. This could mean they seek out products that have been labeled as organic. The FDA has regulations about the use of the word organic. This helps families to know that what are buying truly is organic.
Food is not allowed to be called organic unless the producers (or, in some cases, manufacturers) provide certification that agricultural ingredients have been produced under conditions that would meet the definition of organic. The FDA includes labeling standards based on the percentage of organic ingredients in food.
The word “natural”, however, had no such regulations. When you see the word “natural” on a food label, you might assume that the ingredients include a lot of healthy foods and very little (or no) questionable ingredients. That simply is not the case. The FDA does not restrict the use of the word “natural” on a food label except on foods that have added color, synthetic substances, and flavors.
It is understandable that people are not thrilled that food manufacturers can toss the word “natural” onto any product label they want. Doing so gives consumers the mistaken impression that the are food they are buying is better, or healthier, for them than it really is. The word “natural” is being used in a way that is intentionally misleading.
In December of 2015, the Food and Drug Administration was inundated with comments about the use of the word “natural” on a food label. The comment period will close on May 10, 2016. Many consumers are calling for the FDA to regulate the use of the word “natural” on a food label (like they regulate the use of the word “organic”).
The information on the FDA website about the use of the term “natural” in the labeling food products (that are intended for humans to eat) has a short summary. The key part says that the FDA is seeking comment on the use of the term “natural” on food labels, including foods that are genetically engineered or contain ingredients produced through the use of genetic engineering.
It will be quite some time before consumers learn what the FDA decides about the use of the word “natural”. All we know for certain is that a decision will not be made before the comment period is over.