The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants your help in determining what a natural food is, and critics are concerned such a definition eventually will include such things as genetically modified foods and high fructose corn syrup.
The FDA says it has received three petitions from citizens demanding that it address the usage of the word “natural” on food labels, an FDA press release said. The agency also received a petition asking it to ban the use of the world “natural” in food labeling.
“We also note that some Federal courts, as a result of litigation between private parties, have requested administrative determinations from the FDA regarding whether food products containing ingredients produced using genetic engineering or foods containing high fructose corn syrup may be labeled as ‘natural,’” the FDA said.
As it stands now, some foods with decidedly unnatural ingredients — including high fructose corn syrup and GMO ingredients – are often labeled “natural” by manufacturers. Large food companies are officially asking the FDA to call GMO ingredients “natural.”
“It has become, for many, a somewhat meaningless term,” Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm advocacy group, said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interview.
“We go through great expense and great lengths to produce a product that is truly all-natural, but there’s no (federal) standard of identity or acceptable definition,” Edward Smolyansky, the chief financial officer of Lifeway Foods Inc., which makes organic kefir, complained to The Journal-Sentinel.
“There are lots of small companies abusing that term all-natural, and they’re getting away with it,” Smolyansky said. “They’re using cheap, unnatural ingredients from China and Mexico. They’re cutting down the quality of the products and fooling the customer.”
A number of big food makers have been sued over the term “natural.” PepsiCo removed the word “natural” from its Naked juices because they contained synthetic fibers and genetically modified ingredients. Kellogg took the terms “all natural” and “nothing artificial” off some Kashi cereals after they were found to contain GMOs.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association says GMO ingredients, and high fructose corn syrup, should be labeled “natural,” The Journal-Sentinel reported.
“Corn is corn regardless of the plant breeding technique,” the GMA said in a petition.
The same petition said, “FDA has consistently recognized that biotechnology does not change the essential nature of a food.”
The FDA will take comments from the public until February 10. To submit a comment, visit the FDA website.
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