What's Natural Anyway? The FDA Wants Your Help Defining 'Natural' Ingredients

I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for marketing.

If a food product has a fancy package, bright colors or words like "all-natural" or "organic" on the label, odds are, I'll linger a little longer and consider buying it, even if I've never tried it.

Hey, the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

And while I may be a total sucker, the FDA is not. That's why the federal agency is now enlisting the public's help to figure out just what all that fancy labeling really means.

In a statement, the FDA says,

Because of the changing landscape of food ingredients and production, and in direct response to consumers who have requested that the FDA explore the use of the term 'natural,' the agency is asking the public to provide information and comments on the use of this term in the labeling of human food products. The FDA is taking this action in part because it received three Citizen Petitions asking that the agency define the term 'natural' for use in food labeling and one Citizen Petition asking that the agency prohibit the term 'natural' on food labels. We also note that some Federal courts, as a result of litigation between private parties, have requested administrative determinations from the FDA regarding whether food products containing ingredients produced using genetic engineering or foods containing high fructose corn syrup may be labeled as 'natural.'

A government agency wants your opinion -- how nice is that?

So the gist of it is, the FDA wants to know whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural,” if so, how the agency should define “natural” and how the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels.

As CNN reports, under current regulations, foods may be labeled as "natural" if they do not contain any artificial or synthetic ingredients, such as food coloring.

The current guidelines, however, do not include how the food was manufactured, meaning it doesn't take into account if the food was grown with pesticides, if it has been pasteurized or adulterated in any other way.

Add your thoughts to what natural should mean here and try not to let pretty packaging fool you.