As I wrote about back in January, the word, “Natural” essentially means “nothing”, as far as the FDA is concerned.
The FDA (has) declined to issue a regulation that would define use of the word “natural” on food and household product packaging in the near future, stating: we’re not sure how high an issue it is for consumers.
Well actually, according to a Yankelovich study commissioned by Burt’s Bee’s, 78% of consumers believed that “natural” claims ARE regulated. So, of course they are not concerned…the government’s on the case, right?
“… a company might make a product that really is natural, and label it as such,” says Daniel Fabricant, VP/scientific and regulatory affairs at the Natural Products Association, Washington, D.C., “or it could be made of nine synthetic ingredients, with just a little plant extract thrown in.”
The natural products industry is no longer one comprised of small, entrepreneurial hippies carefully blending organic ingredients in their bathtubs. Many if not most of your favorite organic brands are now owned by large corporations. which adds new importance to defining the word “natural” – not for consumers, but for highly competitive consumer products companies who own natural brands – like Clorox, (Burt’s Bees) ; like Johnson & Johnson (Aveeno) ; like Estee Lauder (Aveda) – all powerful marketing machines.
Now that the big boys (and girls) own natural brands, the pressure is on to define natural. It’s a big selling point and an important part of these companies’ marketing strategies.
Unfortunately, not content to wait on the FDA, some of these big players have set their own standards and created their own “seals of approval.”
Whole Foods is launching a Premium Body Care seal of approval: Milder preservatives, and no parabens or formaldehyde-releasing preservatives — Gentler surfactants, including decyl polyglucose and sodium stearoyl lactylate — All natural fragrances, with no synthetics — Physical, not chemical, sunscreens, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
Clorox’s Burt’s Bill : A set of standards they believe natural products should have.
Green activist groups also are trying to help consumers understand what exactly they are buying when they purchase a natural brand: Buy Green has their “Buy Green Standards”. The Environmental Working Group has their Skin Deep cosmetics database .
What does this all add up to? More confusion for the consumer.
What we need is a functioning FDA that defines use of the word “Natural”. In the meantime, stick with the non-profits listed above and Consumer Reports, Greener Choices report before purchasing any brand touting itself as “natural.”