What does the word "natural" mean, and when can a food label use it? Those are ideas that have been debated for years. The next step in the fight over natural food labeling may be coming soon, thanks to a stated desire form the Trump administration to ensure that government agencies cut back on the amount of regulations on the books.
Suits in Progress
The New Jersey Law Journal recently explained that while the Food and Drug Administration opened a comment period about a standardized definition for the word "natural," the push to get laws off the books might stop this process in its tracks.
Many lawsuits against companies that sell so-called natural products have been stayed while waiting for the FDA's ruling. If it appears that the rule will never appear, however, the wheels may begin turning for these legal proceedings again.
Indiana University food law professor Diana Winters told the New Jersey Law Journal it no longer feels like there will be an FDA regulation enforcing one definition of "natural." There is now pressure among the various cases active around the country to begin litigation.
What will happen once the trials begin is an open question. Winters noted that such suits are often dismissed, but that food producers will still be apprehensive due to the potential for plaintiffs to score a consequential win.
More Words Up for Definition
Of course, there are plenty of words that might influence health-conscious consumers' decisions. In addition to "natural," the FDA recently closed a comment period on its definition of the word "healthy." There is currently a legally binding set of regulations around that term, but updates could bring it into closer alignment with recent developments in nutrition, as the official FDA blog pointed out.
The agency pointed out that it has received many different comments on which direction it could take a new definition. Groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, for example, see a fundamental flaw in using "healthy" as a marketing term in the first place. Whether this rulemaking process will be derailed by the same anti-regulation edicts endangering the "natural" ruling remains to be seen.
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