FDA is asking the public to provide comments on the use of the term "natural" in the labeling of human food products. FDA has received three Citizen Petitions asking that it define the term "natural" for use in food labeling and one Citizen Petition asking that the agency prohibit the term "natural" on food labels. FDA has considered the term "natural" to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. However, this policy was not intended to address either food production methods (such as the use of pesticides) or food processing or manufacturing methods (such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation). FDA also did not consider whether the term "natural" should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.

FDA has asked for public comment on a series of specific questions, including:

  • Should we define, through rulemaking, the term "natural?" Why or why not?
  • Should we prohibit the term "natural" in food labeling? Why or why not?
  • If we define the term "natural," what types of food should be allowed to bear the term "natural?"
  • What can be done to ensure that consumers have a consistent and accurate understanding of the term "natural" in food labeling to ensure that it is not misleading?

Comments are currently due by February 10, 2016, but that date may be extended.