Beginning in 2012, a more concrete definition of "natural" will emerge in the natural food marketplace, and it's not FDA at the helm. The Natural Product Association (NPA) plans to release its latest natural seal for two categories of food to provide a much-needed definition of "natural" for consumers, retailers and manufacturers. 

Since the NPA launched its natural seal for home care products two-and-a-half years ago, the non-profit has been eyeing the food category. Recent consumer outcry, in the form of class action lawsuits against ConAgra and Kashi, has provided momentum for the NPA to develop the food seal, which will join its two current natural seals for home and personal care products. The organization has identified six food categories, and will begin to roll out standards for two of them next year: snacks & cereals and meat & poultry.

"Consumers are screaming out right now for someone to define 'natural,'" said Cara Welch, NPA's vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. At the same time, the NPA is carefully crafting the definition to leave the doors open for innovative manufacturers to join the natural products industry. "We need to make a strong statement to industry—this is what we believe natural is—but it can't be so strong that we cut all of industry out of it," she said.