What Are ‘Natural’ Foods?: FDA Asks for the Public’s Opinion

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(CNN) — The Food and Drug Administration is asking the public to weigh in on the term “natural” used on food labels.

“Natural,” “all natural” or “made with natural ingredients” are common terms used by food manufacturers, but there aren’t any formal rules or regulations that determine what they mean.

The FDA is asking the public for help on its website after receiving citizen petitions requesting clear standards for the term and to prohibit the use of “natural” on some food labels.

Specifically, the FDA wants the public to weigh in on whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural,” and if so, how should it be defined. They also want opinions on how to determine the correct use of the term on food labels.

Under current FDA standards, foods with no artificial or synthetic ingredients, such as color additives, are considered “natural.” However, the agency says those standards do not address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization or irradiation.

Lawsuits between private parties regarding whether foods used genetic engineering or high fructose corn syrup also caused some federal courts to ask the administration for a formal definition.

The FDA is accepting electronic comments starting on November 12, 2015, through February 10, 2016.