A National 'Natural' Standard for Food Labeling
34 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 2013
This Article evaluates the policy reasons behind the FDA's and the USDA's decisions not to regulate food producers' claims that their products are "natural." Recognizing that the modern food system presents challenges for the task of defining what is "natural," this Article concludes that the benefits of rulemaking outweigh the challenges. Federal agencies' failure to codify a definition of "natural" has caused consumer confusion, as evidenced by recent false-advertising lawsuits against food and beverage producers whose food labels bear "natural" claims. Moreover, the agencies' rulemaking reticence leaves lower courts and states free to define "natural," potentially resulting in even greater regulatory confusion. Uncertainty exposes food producers to unnecessary risk of enforcement actions, negative publicity, or litigation. Thus, this Article calls for a "natural" food standard that can be adopted by and enforced by the FDA, USDA, and FTC.
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