At the grocery store, you pick up a can of soup, a granola bar or a juice box with the word “natural” on the label. Does it influence your decision to buy the item?

It probably shouldn’t, since the term isn’t defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency merely provides "guidance" — and limited guidance at that — to manufacturers about when, or more specifically, when not, to use the word. (Other terms, such as “organic,” do have a legal definition.)

But that could change in the future — and here’s your chance to put in your two cents on what you think the word “natural” should mean.

Here’s how the FDA explains the issue:

“The FDA has considered the term ‘natural’ to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation.”

So the “natural” chicken you buy isn’t necessary free of antibiotics, “natural” produce may have been grown with pesticides, and that frozen dinner or soy-based snack may contain genetically modified organisms.

Related: Antibiotics in Meat: California Cracks Down

The call for public comments comes after three citizen petitions asking the agency to define the term “natural” on food labels and another petition demanding it ban the use of the term.

The FDA is also under pressure from federal courts that are examining lawsuits against manufacturers for the alleged misuse of the word “natural.” One court asked the FDA, for example, whether food products created through genetic engineering or foods containing high fructose corn syrup could be labeled “natural.”

There are no easy answers, according to agency officials. “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth,” the FDA notes on its website.

Related: 4 Food Apps to Add to Your Phone or Tablet

Starting November 12, the FDA invites you to submit comments on a list of questions such as:

  • Whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural”
  • If so, how the agency should define “natural”
  • How the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels

To do it, visit and type FDA-2014-N-1207 in the search box.

Related: 8 "Health Foods" That Aren't So Healthy

Diana is an award-winning writer and editor with more than 20 years' experience in magazine, video, book and digital journalism, with a specialty in health coverage. She was a longtime writer and news editor at the Center for Investigative Reporting; has written for publications from the Washington Post to the Times of London syndicate; and has served as a senior and/or consulting editor at Time Inc. Health, Hippocrates, HealthDay News Service and Reporting on Health. She was also editor in chief of Consumer Health Interactive, a national health and medical web site, and has reported on finance for Blueshift Research and PBS Frontline. Before joining SafeBee, she was editor of Bioenergy Connection, a national magazine about bioenergy at UC Berkeley. Her favorite safety tip: Wear a bike helmet.