The Natural Advisory Council (NAC) launched in October 2016 to form a strong coalition of natural, organic and “green” product manufacturers, retailers, and non-profit consumer protection organizations to advocate, collaborate and educate (ACE) on the definition and use of the term, “natural” in all consumer products.
The NAC mission goals (ACE) include:
- Advocate consumer protection legislation to define “natural”
- Industry collaboration to create a meaningful standard for natural products
- Creating a university-level curriculum covering the natural industry from science marketing and legal perspectives
- Public education and engagement plays an important part of our advocacy efforts
As the popularity of natural and “green” products has skyrocketed, so has the proliferation of green washing marketers. Unfortunately, many of these companies are appealing to consumers via clever labeling and misleading brand names, in the end raising questions about the true quality and integrity of the ingredients.
A recent WSJ article noted, “These so-called natural household and personal-care products have proliferated over the past few years as more consumers—especially parents of young children—are looking for safer products and are often willing to pay more for them. U.S. sales of beauty, household and personal care products that make natural claims have grown 35% since 2012, versus 4% growth for the broader industry, according to Bernstein Research analyst Ali Dibadj, who analyzed Nielsen data.”1
Because no current FDA definition for “natural” currently exists in the natural products industry, the NAC believes that it’s important all natural products be subjected to a rigorous set of standards as to what is considered natural. Although there are currently different “natural” certification seals available, their standards differ substantially because of the lack of a definition from the FDA.
The Federal Status of “Natural”:
At this time, the only definition of “natural” is included in the US Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms and is limited to:
A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed").2
The FDA has requested comments on the use of the term “natural” on food labeling which has been extended to May 20, 2016.
Although the FDA has not engaged in rulemaking to establish a formal definition for the term “natural,” we do have a longstanding policy concerning the use of “natural” in human food labeling. 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. The FDA also did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.
Specifically, the FDA asks for information and public comment on questions such as:
- Whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural,”
- If so, how the agency should define “natural,” and
- How the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels.
The FDA is accepting public comments from November 12, 2015 through February 10, 2016.3
The Federal Trade Commission, which enforces federal truth-in-advertising laws, has a set of “green guides” to help marketers avoid making deceptive environmental claims. James Kohm, head of enforcement for the agency’s consumer protection bureau, said the FTC hasn’t provided specific guidance on marketing natural products, but companies aren’t allowed to deceive consumers.
“The natural industry is still a bit like the wild, wild west. There aren't determined regulatory protocols to provide guidance to natural product manufacturers in terms of best manufacturing practices or ingredient safety.” —Jessica Iclisoy, Founder, California Baby®
In October 2016, Jessica launched the NAC to share her wealth of knowledge with the industry and consumers alike. In fact, she hasn’t stopped fighting for ingredient integrity since day one. For over 20 years, Jessica has been a true pioneer in the natural skincare industry. While other companies take shortcuts, Jessica has done the opposite, consistently maintaining a level of control over her products, from farm to bottle, to shelf. She wants honesty to prevail in this world of “natural” wannabes in order for consumers to finally trust companies to do the right thing and claim the real truth about their products and practices.
1 Wall Street Journal, ‘Natural’ Product Claims Can Be Murky, Serena NG, March 29th 2016
2 http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact- sheets/food-labeling/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms.
3 http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ LabelingNutrition/ucm456090.htm