A new nonprofit organization is trying to do what some say is impossible—define and regulate the term natural.
The International Association of Natural Product Producers plans to develop specific criteria for what is natural, a list of approved and forbidden ingredients, labeling guidelines, and a certification program for natural foods, beverages, personal care products, supplements and pet products. The ultimate goal is to produce a ?natural? seal.
?We are here to do what other industry associations have failed to do, which is define this concept once and for all, as well as monitor its adherence? to IANPP standards, says Darrin Duber-Smith, president of IANPP and of Nederland, Colo.-based Green Marketing.
With the help of the Botanical Elements Trade Association, Duber-Smith has established guidelines for a naturals labeling program. He plans to form a group of 20 IANPP charter members to evaluate those guidelines.
The charter members, who pay $250 each, will also determine whether the IANPP seal will be available only to members and how the seal will be certified. Duber-Smith says there is a ?90 percent chance we will not use a third-party certifier. We will probably make it voluntary, like a Good Housekeeping seal.?
As of mid-September, IANPP had 14 charter members: Unilever; Aubrey Organics; New Hope Natural Media, publisher of The Natural Foods Merchandiser; Naturade; the Natural Products Industry Center; Maplewood Bake Co.; Earth Exchange; Amin Law; Mastey; Essential Wholesale; Bioderm Research; Long Island Saucier; SunRose Aromatics; and Shar Ambrosia.
Duber-Smith expects to complete charter membership and begin discussions on the guidelines by early October. He hopes to avoid lengthy negotiations by operating IANPP as a business with a strategic plan spelling out how members will evaluate the guidelines.
Those guidelines include:
- Natural ingredients are plant or mineral ingredients used as raw materials or with minimal processing such as cleaning, dehydrating, drying, filtering, cold pressing, grinding, chopping or extracting. Extraction should use natural methods such as steam or water distilling, or natural ingredients such as water or natural alcohol.
- Acceptable industrial processing includes hydrolysis, esterification or transesterification of fats, oils and waxes, including lecithin, lanolin, monosaccharides, oligosaccharides, polysaccharides, proteins and lipoproteins. Duber-Smith stresses the need for additional research and discussion.
- A natural ingredient or product may not contain petrochemicals, including paraffin; genetically modified organisms; synthetic fragrances; toxic ingredients, even if they meet with the definition of natural; irradiated ingredients; and more to be added as research progresses.
Labeling guidelines include:
- 100% Natural and All Natural: Must contain only natural ingredients;
- Natural: At least 95 percent of the nonwater/nonsalt ingredients must be natural;
- Made with Natural Ingredients: At least 70 percent of the nonwater/nonsalt ingredients must be natural.
Duber-Smith says charter members will also consult natural products guidelines from companies such as Wild Oats Natural Marketplace and Jason Natural Cosmetics.
Urvashi Rangan, director of the Consumers Union ecolabels.org project, says, ?Trying to give natural some meaning is not a terrible thing, but the devil is in the details when it comes to natural.?
For instance, she says, ?The standard ?toxic ingredients not allowed?—how are they going to determine toxicity? Even the FDA doesn?t know on some ingredients.?
Rangan also believes consumers want standards that address how natural products ingredients are grown.
In addition, Rangan says ecolabels.org evaluates how a seal is verified, and ?if the organization is vested in the sale of these products, we would not consider that the best of verification systems. We don?t consider a membership-label organization to be independent.? Ecolabels.org also considers whether the standards were developed by public and industry input, and whether standards and information about the organization are publicly available.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 10/p. 32