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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Proposes To Define Terms on Food Labels Such As “All Natural”

Tree_iStock_000004633733LargeBy Jeremy M. Creelan

In his 2016 State of the State address, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo bemoaned the absence of federal definitions of terms commonly used on food labels, such as “all natural.”  He indicated his plan to have New York State health officials develop such definitions and provide a stamp of approval indicating adherence to the State’s definitions that would be placed on food packaging labels.  Presumably, this initiative will undergo a public comment process before any definitions are finalized or the parameters of the approval process are set.  But questions regarding whether such state efforts to define these terms would be found to be pre-empted by federal regulation if challenged will inevitably arise, particularly given the FDA’s November 2015 notice seeking public comments on the use of “natural” on food labels.  The Governor’s speech is available here and his remarks about food labeling can be found at 1:04:40.  Click here for a transcript of Gov. Cuomo’s speech.