Closer to the End for the Natural Impasse?

** Congress Looking at FDA to Release All Natural Guidelines **                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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 Are the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “natural” guidelines imminent? As we have blogged about in the past, one well-worn path plaintiffs’ counsel have taken is to bring suit against a company using “natural” in its food labelling – set-up against plaintiff’s own particular (and sometime peculiar) definition of what a natural food or ingredient is.  The absence of FDA guidance has given room to maneuver on both sides of the issue in “natural” litigation.  In 2015, FDA opened a comment period on new regulations regarding the use of the term “natural” in food labeling, but there has been radio silence since (notwithstanding a growing volume of cases filed on the subject).  Notably, in a recent bill report accompanying the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2018 (H.R. REP. 115-232, 1), the House Committee on Appropriations directed “FDA to provide a report within 60 days of enactment of this Act on the actions and timeframe for defining ‘natural’ so that there is a uniform national standard for the labeling claims and consumers and food producers have certainty about the meaning of the term.” H.R. Rep. No. 115-232, at 72 (2017).  This appropriations bill, though formally introduced, remains pending in Congress – accordingly, the putative 60 day deadline for reporting to the committee has not yet commenced.  Nonetheless, it is a good sign that the issue has the attention of Congress (and in particular the committee that controls funding).  See discussion Rosillo v. Annie’s Homegrown Inc., No. 17-CV-02474-JSW, 2017 WL 5256345, at *3–4 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 17, 2017) (staying all natural case under primary jurisdiction doctrine).

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