It gets murky.
To try and demonstrate some of the confusion around naturals, we’ve compared regulatory contexts across six regions.
The United States
In the United States, there is no official definition for “natural”. Two authorities, the FDA and FSIS have policies in place related to the claim.
The FDA considers a product natural if “nothing artificial or synthetic that is not normally expected to be in the food is present.”
The FSIS, which applies to meat, considers a product to be natural if it “does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative, or any other synthetic ingredient. The product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed.”
The regulatory body in Iran, the IFDA, defines natural as “Nothing can be added, changed, or removed. Components should not be changed or removed.”
The Ministry of Health in South Africa also has a strict definition. “Single foods, of a traditional nature, to which nothing has been added and which have been subjected only to such processing as to render them suitable for human consumption.”
There is no broad definition of “natural” across Europe. Instead, national initiatives drive the guidelines.
In Ireland, for example, a natural food is “A single ingredient food, not significantly interfered with by man.”
“Single food derived from a recognized source to which nothing has been added and has been subjected to such processing that renders it suitable for human consumption.”
Composites can be described as “made from natural ingredients”, but adding ingredients means you can no longer call a product “natural”.
India also requires disclaimers on brand names that share a meaning or definition of “Natural”, “Pure”, or “Fresh”.
The ACCC, Australia’s regulatory body, has no definition for “natural”. Instead, manufacturers there must rely on the Trade Practice Act that covers marketing and advertisement rules.
The Trade Practice Act, which is not exclusive to food, uses the dictionary definition. In this case, natural means that nature has produced the ingredients, man has not interfered.
Natural can also be used to convey that it contains no additives or artificial preservatives.
It’s only going to get more complicated
Adding to the confusion, these six regions have their own definitions for natural flavors, natural colors, and natural preservatives.
The regulatory environment is constantly changing. Whether you’re dealing with naturals, vegan, or organic, it’s your responsibility to justify and document any of these claims.
This includes tracking ingredients, production steps, and why you decided a food or ingredient is worthy of being labelled natural.
You can get an entire breakdown of how to assess a product or ingredient by watching part one of our “Go Naturals” webinar series, which gives examples to regional applications of natural claims, including how products and ingredients in different regions are classified differently.