The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has issued a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking for clarification on what the term “natural” means when it comes to food labeling.
In a recent news release, Karin Moore, GMA’s senior vice president and general counsel, said the industry was “committed to providing consumers with labeling information in the clearest possible terms in order for them to make informed product purchases,” but noted that it was “critically important” for the FDA to clearly define the term “‘natural’ to alleviate confusion for consumers and industry alike and to set a standard that will promote fair and consistent dealing in the marketplace among food and beverage manufacturers.”
In November 2015, the FDA said it was seeking comments on the use of the term “natural.” GMA had filed a citizen petition with the agency – one of three – a year earlier asking it to set a definition for the term. Additionally, some Federal courts have requested clarification due to ongoing litigation.
“The criteria used to determine if a food qualifies for a ‘natural’ claim should focus primarily on whether the product’s ingredients are synthetic/artificial or natural and on the degree of processing the ingredients have undergone,” Moore explained.
The GMA also said farming and agricultural methods used in the production of a crop, including pesticide or herbicide use, the use of biotech seeds, or animal husbandry (e.g., “free range,” “grass fed,” “fair trade”, etc) should not have a bearing on the “natural” status of a food or ingredient.
Founded in 1908, GMA primarily focuses on product safety, science-based public policies, and industry initiatives.