US seeking to define ‘natural’

Tuesday, 15 September, 2009

US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) (the agency) has announced that it will solicit further public comment as it seeks to define the conditions under which it would permit the voluntary claim ‘natural’ to be used in the labelling of meat and poultry products. The agency made the announcement through the publication of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR).

The agency is seeking comments to clarify and resolve issues surrounding the ‘natural’ claim, including how best to coordinate FSIS' regulation of ‘natural’ claims with the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) voluntary ‘naturally raised’ marketing claim standard. The agency believes that the ANPR will facilitate the emergence of consensus on the meaning of ‘natural’ and will allow the agency to move quickly to a proposed rule.

The current FSIS policy states that the term ‘natural’ may be used in the labelling of meat and poultry products provided that the product does not contain any artificial flavour or flavouring, colouring ingredients, chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient and that the product is not more than minimally processed.

In October 2006, FSIS received a petition requesting that the agency initiate rulemaking to establish a codified definition for the voluntary claim ‘natural’ and to delineate the conditions under which the claim can be used on the labels of meat and poultry products. In December 2006, FSIS held a public meeting and requested comments on ‘natural’ claims.

FSIS received a high volume of comments that expressed divergent views on the use of the claim ‘natural’ following the December 2006 public meeting.

Therefore, FSIS is publishing an ANPR to solicit more focused comments on the issue. The ANPR requests comments on a number of issues related to the use of ‘natural’ claims in the labelling of meat and poultry products.

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