The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service today announced that it will solicit further public comment as the Agency seeks to define the conditions under which it would permit the voluntary claim "natural" to be used in the labeling of meat and poultry products. The agency made the announcement through the publication of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
The Agency is seeking comments to clarify and resolve issues surrounding the "natural" claim, including how best to coordinate FSIS' regulation of "natural" claims with the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) voluntary "naturally raised" marketing claim standard. The Agency believes that the ANPR will facilitate the emergence of consensus on the meaning of "natural" and will allow the Agency to move quickly to a proposed rule.
The current FSIS policy states that the term "natural" may be used in the labeling of meat and poultry products provided that the product does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredients, chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient and that the product is not more than minimally processed.
In October 2006, FSIS received a petition requesting that the Agency initiate rulemaking to establish a codified definition for the voluntary claim "natural" and to delineate the conditions under which the claim can be used on the labels of meat and poultry products. In December 2006, FSIS held a public meeting and requested comments on "natural" claims.
FSIS received a high volume of comments that expressed divergent views on the use of the claim "natural" following the December 2006 public meeting.
Therefore, FSIS is publishing an ANPR to solicit more focused comments on the issue. The ANPR requests comments on a number of issues related to the use of "natural" claims in the labeling of meat and poultry products.
For detailed description of these issues, please refer to the ANPR, which is posted on FSIS' Web site.
During the ANPR process, FSIS will continue to apply its current "natural" claims policy described in the FSIS Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book (PDF Only).
Comments on the ANPR must be received by November 13, 2009. Comments can be sent to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service,

5601 Sunnyside Ave
, Room 2-2127, Beltsville, Md.20705; or through the Federal eRulemaking Portal.  at www.regulations.gov. Go here,  and in the "Search for Open Regulations" box, select "Food Safety and Inspection Service" from the agency drop-down menu and then click on "Submit." In the Docket ID column, select FDMS Docket Number FSIS-2006-0040A to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.