by RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced they are seeking public comment on the use of natural in the labeling of human food. The FDA indicates the impetus for this request are three citizen petitions requesting the agency define natural.
In background, the FDA does have a longstanding policy for natural, which indicates nothing artificial or synthetic has been added, including all color additives regardless of source, that would not normally be expected in that food. The policy does not address production methods such as the use of pesticides or biotechnology nor does it address food processing or manufacturing methods such as thermal processing or pasteurization.
The USDA, which regulates labeling of products with two percent or more cooked meat or poultry, also has a longstanding policy on use of natural on product labels. This policy indicates no artificial ingredients, coloring or chemical preservatives can be added, and a product called natural cannot be more than minimally processed. The policy indicates minimally processed includes processes that have traditionally been used to make food more edible or preserve it (think smoking, roasting, freezing, drying, fermenting) or physical processes that do not alter the product (think grinding meat, making juice from fruit, separating eggs). As food technology has advanced over time, there has been much debate around the definition of "minimally processed." For example, does the solution injected beneath the skin of chicken preclude it from being called natural? Is baking bread considered more than minimally processed? What about thermal processing?
The top three things you need to know about this FDA action are:
If you or your organization are interested in submitting comments to the FDA, you can do so starting today. Click here.