The terms “Natural” and “Naturally Raised” ring an assuring tone when affixed onto meat labels at the supermarket. Who wants to buy an artificial chicken. “Natural” conjures images of endless plains where cattle roam freely, and open ranges where hens peck and scuttle about to their heart’s content.
Wake up! There is currently no textbook definition for these terms. Nor is there a proper USDA definition:
1. A product can be called Natural if it contains no artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredients, chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient, AND
2. the product is not more than “minimally processed”:
Minimally processed = “traditional processes used to make food edible or to preserve it or to make it safe for human consumption e.g., smoking, roasting, freezing, drying, and fermenting, or those physical processed which do not fundamentally alter the raw product and/or which only separate a whole, intact food into component parts, e.g., grinding meat, separating eggs… and pressing fruits to produce juices.”
3. All products claiming to be natural should be accompanied by a brief statement which explains what is meant by the term natural…
The naturally raised marketing claim standard states that livestock used for the production of meat and meat products have been raised entirely without growth promotants, antibiotics (except for ionophores used as coccidiostats for parasite control), and have never been fed animal by-products.
This rather loose definition means that animals raised in huge factory farms, with no access to pasture or open air can still be considered naturally raised. Poultry can be called natural, even when injected with a saltwater broth to increase weight by 15%.
The USDA is aware of the situation and through its Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) arm is inviting the public to weigh in on the matter.
Want your voice to be heard? Here are the instructions for going online and submitting your suggestions:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: This Web site provides the ability to type short comments directly into the comment field on this Web page or attach a file for lengthier comments. Go to http://www.regulations.gov 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 material available electronically. This docket can be viewed using the ``Advanced Search'' function in Regulations.gov. Mail, including floppy disks or CD-ROMs, and hand or courier- delivered items: Send to FSIS, OPPD, Docket Room, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Room 2-2127, Beltsville, Maryland 20705. All submissions received by mail and electronic mail must include the Agency name and docket number FSIS-2006-0040A.
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