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What does "natural" on food labels mean?

Posted by: admin at 12:00 am on February 18th, 2016


Can you please explain what the legal definition of "natural" is on food labels? I have been more focused on reading food labels and see the word natural more often than before.


Even though most food labels are highly regulated, there is no "legal definition" for the word "natural" on labels. According to the Federal Drug Administration, FDA, website, "Because of the changing landscape of food ingredients and production, and in direct response to consumers who have requested that the FDA explore the use of the term "natural," the agency is asking the public to provide information and comments on the use of this term in the labeling of human food products."

Also stated on the FDA website, "Although the FDA has not engaged in rulemaking to establish a formal definition for the term "natural," we do have a longstanding policy concerning the use of "natural" in human food labeling.

The FDA has considered the term natural to mean nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would normally be expected to be in the food.

However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods such as pasteurization or irradiation.

The FDA also did not consider whether the term "natural" should describe any nutritional or other health benefit." Clear as mud? The FDA gives a description but not a definition!

This is why food labeling is so confusing. So, in simpler terms, a food labeled "natural" may contain high fructose corn syrup and be injected with sodium but will not contain added colors, dyes or artificial flavors.

As I always recommend, please read your food labels and know what ingredients are toxic and non digestible by the human body.

My mantra is, if you cannot pronounce the ingredient, you probably should not be eating it. If you are interested in making a comment about "natural" being listed on food labels, you can go to the fga.govwebsite - they began accepting comments this past November 12, 2015. Just be sure to include the docket number: FDA-2014-N-1207. The comment period closes May 10, 2016.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you!

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant; email her atdocphylis@gmail.com. This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.