Thursday, September 22, 2011

Food Fight: ‘All Natural’ Designation Sparks Litigation

We live in an era when people pay obsessive attention to the provenance of what they eat: Where and how was the food made? And equally important, what ingredients are in it?
In that context, the phrase “all natural” takes on huge significance when it is affixed to grocery items.
But some recent consumer lawsuits claim that food companies are playing fast-and-loose with the “all natural” designation, effectively committing fraud against the shopping public, WSJ’s Ashby Jones reports.
The litigation begs the question: What properly qualifies as “all natural”?
It’s hard to say, because the FDA largely has declined to define “natural,” according to WSJ.
“The word hasn’t been defined well enough at all, so for years companies have been able to get away with basically defining it themselves,” said Michele Simon, an author and food-policy expert.
More than 20 years ago, the FDA issued an “informal policy” defining natural to mean that “nothing artificial or synthetic” has been included in or added to a product, but the distinction between “artificial” or “synthetic” and “natural” isn’t so clear, according to WSJ.
“With the few precious dollars the FDA has, we largely choose to focus on topics that affect public safety,” an FDA spokeswoman told WSJ. “The ‘natural’ issue doesn’t. That’s not to say it’s not important, but we frankly have more pressing things to deal with.”

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