Sunday, November 22, 2015

The FDA Wants to Tell Us What Words Mean

The FDA is proposing a new regulation to define, and potentially ban, the use of the word “natural” in food packaging.

Historically, there has been no official definition of the term, meaning that food companies can include the word on anything they like. It’s a marketing tool, rather than a genuine description of nutritional content.

This may seem problematic to people concerned about what they eat, but the fact is that the word “natural” is inherently vague and ambiguous, making it more well-suited to go alongside other marketing words like “fun” or “tasty” than to attempt to convey specific nutritional information. Regulation of these types of terms falls outside of the purview of the FDA, and should be left for individual companies and consumers to decide.

What does “natural” actually mean? It could be anything. From one point of view, humans are creatures of nature, and therefore anything we make is by extension natural. Just as honey made by bees is natural, preservatives made by humans is too. From the other extreme, you could argue that it’s unnatural to cook food, since that requires human intervention, and this would rule out any cooked products from being labeled as natural. Some may argue that this vagueness illustrates the need for definition, but allowing a centralized authority to make that decision comes with its own set of problems.

Any definition the FDA comes up with will be necessarily arbitrary. Rather than informing consumers, what you will see is a government agency effectively picking winners and losers in the food industry. The FDA knows that consumers respond well to the “natural” label, so it would be giving a de facto sanction to some foods while forbidding others from using effective marketing.



Anonymous said...

The FDA is best at making trouble.

Anonymous said...

Even arsenic is a natural substance. Nature is full of natural poisons!

Paul Weber said...

Typical of a progressive/leftist controlled organization, change the meaning of words so that no one knows what they are really up to.

Anonymous said...

The idea that the word "natural" cannot be defined as it pertains to advertising is ridiculous. While I am generally not for government regulations, I am also against companies mis-labeling products in order to deceive the public.

A few years ago the same thing happened with the word "organic." The public had an idea what the word meant when it came to foods, but as there was no regulation on the word, It meant nothing when slapped on a product. People felt that a GMO ear of corn that was raised with tons of pesticides and fertilizers not found anywhere other than in chemistry labs was not really "organic." Some companies were labeling everything as "organic" and charging a premium price.

That's deceptive.

The same is true with the term "natural." If a product such as ice cream is labeled "100 Natural!" and yet contains artificial sweeteners, coloring and preservatives, is that "100% Natural?" Most would say "no" but as it is now, the labeling of ice cream with artificial coloring, sweeteners, and preservatives as "100% Natural!" is legal.

If consumers want to pay more for "natural" products, then there should be an understood definition of the term which insures the public is getting what they paid for.

Anonymous said...

Let the market place regulate the term. People will decide if something is natural or not and that decision will spread like wildfire on social media.

Anonymous said...

I'm kinda with Anon 6:22.
I have no problem with a regulating authority ensuring that the public is not mislead with deceptive advertising.
I don't think that stifles speech.

Bird of Paradise said...

Back in the 70's the FDA held up deliveries of Defibulators to hospitals becuase of stupid paperwork delays how many people died while some buricratic idiot dragged their feet about something

Anonymous said...

how many people died while some buricratic idiot dragged their feet about something.

Ummm.....none. Not in the case you are citing at least.

However, in the 1970's a defibrillator that was in wide use was recalled by the FDA because it failed on many levels. (wrong voltage as well as not working at critical times.) How many people would or did die from the failure of that brand of defibrillator is unknown.

Of course, how a defibrillator is related to the word "natural" is unclear. Maybe you can enlighten us as to how that is.

Alpha Skua said...


Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of the FDA, but I have to agree with them on this. "Natural" implies chemical, steroid, and additive free. The current rules would allow advertising to lead consumers to continue in that fantasy.