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Document Type

Notes

Abstract

Faced with the health and financial toll from escalating rates of chronic disease, consumers are demanding healthier food products and increased transparency regarding the ingredients in their food. Food labels provide the primary means for businesses to communicate with customers about their food products. In response to consumer demand, food companies are stocking grocery store shelves with products claiming to be wholesome, “natural” and healthy. Yet, many of these products are not as healthy or natural as purported. Although both consumers and food manufacturers place importance on the term “natural,” the Food and Drug Administration has refused to define the term. In the absence of a legally enforceable definition, there has been a rise in class action litigation against allegedly mislabeled “all natural” food products. This Note evaluates the impact of the courts, rather than the FDA, on the interpretation of food-labeling laws. The Note discusses the confusion among courts over whether primary jurisdiction should apply and litigation should be stayed due to possible agency action. This Note goes on to analyze the results of the FDA’s public comment process initiated in May 2016 to determine whether the agency should define the term “natural.” Finally, this Note explores how and why the FDA, not the courts or legislature, should define the term “natural.”

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