The Natural Products Association (NPA) wants more time to respond to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) request for comments on when the term “natural” should be used on food labels.
The trade group asked for an additional 90 days to gather input from their industry members.
“Defining ‘natural’ is a major undertaking, and NPA feels that no harm will result from FDA extending the comment period due to the interest, significance, and complexities surrounding the topic,” Dan Fabricant, the group’s executive director and CEO, said in a news release.
“NPA strongly supports and welcomes this effort by the FDA to define what can be labelled natural, because millions of Americans are buying products they think might be natural but are really not.”
The FDA said it's responding to requests from consumers to define the term “natural” and set guidelines on when it should be used.
Although the FDA has not engaged in a rulemaking to establish a formal definition, the agency said it’s long considered “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including color additives) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected.
The FDA said the policy did not intend to address food production methods like the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods like thermal technologies, pasteurization or irradiation.
The agency said its definition also failed to consider whether natural should be used to describe nutrition or other health benefits.
The public has been asked to weigh on whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural,” how the agency should define it if it is and how the agency should determine its appropriate use on food labels. Comments are now due by Feb. 10.