IFT Comments on the Use of the Term “Natural” in the Labeling of Human Food Products

May 6, 2016


IFT provided written comments to specific questions posed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the “Use of the term “natural” in the labeling of human food products.” IFT suggested that to reduce or prevent consumer confusion and misinterpretation of the term “natural” on food packages, the FDA should consider either clearly defining or prohibiting the use of the term “natural” on food labels.  Should FDA decide to define the term “natural” for use on food labels, then, IFT recommends that the agency:

  • consider setting standards or guidelines for use of the term “natural”
  • seek to harmonize the definition and standards or guidelines among all federal agencies (for example, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), FDA, and Federal Trade Commission (FTC))
  • engage in consumer education about:
    • definition of the term “natural,” and standards or guidelines
    • how specific foods and ingredients with or without the “natural” label fit into their dietary patterns
    • the meaning of the absence of the term “natural” on food labels, and that its absence does not necessarily mean that the food is unsafe or unhealthy
  • provide a brief explanatory label descriptor to accompany the term, regarding what is meant by the use of the term “natural”
  • carefully consider whether modern genetic modification techniques should be included or excluded in the definition of “natural”
  • carefully consider the critical roles (for example, food safety, preservation, nutritional quality, convenience, availability) of various food processing technologies.  

IFT appreciates the efforts of the Working Group (Dr. Christine Bruhn, Dr. Robert Gravani, Dr. Robert Post, John Ruff and Marcia Walker) in the development of the comments.

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