Many consumers are asking for products that are considered natural. The challenge for processors is to make sure these products comply with the labeling regulations of USDA and FDA.
The FDA has not issued any specific regulations regarding products labeled as “natural”. However, it has issued the following statement pertaining to labeling:
“The FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.”
“(1) the product does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, or chemical preservative (as defined in 21 CFR 101.22), or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and (2) the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed. Minimal processing may include: (a) those traditional processes used to make food edible or to preserve it or to make it safe for human consumption, e.g., smoking, roasting, freezing, drying, and fermenting, or (b) those physical processes which do not fundamentally alter the raw product and/or which only separate a whole, intact food into component parts, e.g., grinding meat, separating eggs into albumen and yolk, and pressing fruits to produce juices.”
So, let’s breakdown the key terminology from both regulatory agencies:
Typically, natural ingredients are those derived from natural sources (ex: most spices and vegetables, corn meal, rice starch, etc.). Other ingredients are not found in nature and therefore must be synthetically produced as artificial ingredients (ex: monosodium glutamate, potassium sorbate, sodium lactate, etc.). However, some ingredients found in nature (ex: corn and soybeans) can be manufactured artificially for more consistent quality than their natural counterparts (ex: modified food starch, soy protein concentrates, etc.), therefore they would likely be considered “artificial ingredients” and not eligible to be used in “natural” food products. These same standards are applied to natural and artificial colors, depending on their source and method of manufacture.
Minimally processed simply means that the product is processed in a typical way that it would normally be processed. For example, sausage products that are produced through standard mixing, grinding, emulsifying, and stuffing practices would still be considered minimally processed because it “does not fundamentally alter the product”.
Especially when it comes to selecting “natural” ingredients, be sure to work with your ingredient supplier to help with formulation changes or development.
We can help you achieve your goals while maintaining regulatory labeling compliance. Contact us here, and ask us about natural labeling and what it can do for you.