Legal Blog

Saturday Side Hustle: What Does ‘Natural’ Actually Mean?

Picking up from last week, “organic” and “natural” are not the same thing, although there may not be much space outside the overlapping portion of the Venn diagram in most consumers’ minds.

As I mentioned also last week, the FDA has been looking for a definition for “natural” for a few years now, and in response to public comments that were submitted to help the agency come up with something, we heard that “[n]one of the comments provided FDA with a specific direction to follow for developing a definition regarding the use of the term ‘natural.’

I think that’s a polite way of saying that the comments ranged from marginally helpful to utterly ridiculous.

Let’s take a look at a few examples submitted by the concerned public, from what in my opinion represents the most helpful to least helpful types of comments received (I elected not to correct spelling or grammar):

“Natural should mean organic and completely unmodified. No GMOs or artificial growth hormones.”

Not a bad suggestion. Maybe just reapply the NOP standard and call it a day? Might save some resources.

“Based on my understand of ‘natural’ labels, the product must contain minimally processing ingredients and no preservatives. If you go to Whole Foods Website they offer vendors a list of unacceptable ingredients. I think that is a simple method for FDA to use for their standards.”

The FDA could let Amazon define “natural” for us. It’s a thought.

“What is most important to me is no longer allowing the use of ‘natural’ for flavorings, emulsifiers, and other additives even when they are derived from foods. I myself think of ‘natural’ as meaning a ‘real’ food, at most ground up (as in flour), not something extracted from the food (as in carrageenan).”

“Natural” means “real”. I can’t imagine that causing any more confusion.

“‘All natural’ should be banned from food labels as the term is misleading. Packages foods are hardly natural and anything that contains chemicals, perservatives, GMOs, artifical flavors or colors should certainly say so not be labelled with a term that suggests otherwise.”

Ban it? That’s not so bad if the term is not of any use anyway. What do you think? I think the food industry would freak out.

“Someone in your organisation needs to grow a pair of non GMO balls and stand up for the people, not the corporations whose only vested interest is to make money, you have a great responsibility, it should be taken much more seriously and with much more honour and ethics.”

Well, you can see why the FDA has been taking its time with this issue. It’s true that the agency is responsible for food industry oversight when it comes to saying what’s in food packages, but with such divergent public opinions, I understand the caution. After all, the agency is funded by our tax dollars, so it would be irresponsible for the FDA to become a dictator on this issue.

I hope you enjoyed reading!


For more information on this topic, please contact Scott Lloyd at


ABOUT SCOTT LLOYD | 301.575.0357

Scott Lloyd is a registered patent attorney who specializes in intellectual property counseling and commercialization work. He has served as a technology commercialization specialist and advisor to companies in a diverse array of markets, including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food and beverage, specialty chemicals, technology, and engineering. In addition, Mr. Lloyd spent ten years as in-house general counsel to small and mid-sized companies, where he managed corporate matters and resolved commercial disputes in addition to intellectual property strategy, and now serves in the same capacity for entrepreneurial clients. He serves as counsel to small and mid-sized business owners seeking to implement growth strategies and succession plans.

While in house, Mr. Lloyd has also contributed to the successful formation of international affiliates of domestic businesses as well as a $400,000,000 business acquisition.






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