Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reached out for public comment about the use of the term “natural” on food labels. The Natural Products Association (NPA) responded yesterday, welcoming FDA efforts toward defining “natural.” As part of their Natural Seal program, NPA has already certified 800 products and 500 ingredients, in the home and personal care categories, as truly natural. However, there is yet to be an established definition for the term “natural,” nor is there yet a program to certify food as natural.

According to a news release, Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., executive director and CEO of NPA, said, “NPA strongly supports and welcomes this effort by the FDA to define what can be labeled natural, because millions of Americans are buying products they think might be natural but are really not.” FDA made the decision to accept public comment after several petitions and the request by Federal Courts, due to litigations between private parties, for the determination about “whether food products containing ingredients produced using genetic engineering or foods containing high fructose corn syrup may be labeled as ‘natural.’”

“While there are several courts waiting for FDA to define the term,” said Fabricant, “we see the need for the federal government to develop one overarching definition for natural as it is the most litigated claim out there in the natural products industry today.” Currently, only the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has any kind of definition for the term “natural,” specifically regarding meat and poultry. USDA defines “natural” as “A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as ‘no artificial ingredients; minimally processed’).”