Organic & Natural Health Association hosted its first national conference Jan. 26-27, at the Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village in Florida. Thirty-five leaders in the natural products industry and members of Organic & Natural attended.
Organic & Natural Health's CEO and executive director, Karen Howard, announced the board's concluding assessment on the issue of defining "natural," saying that the term "natural" should not be used in the form of a certification or seal, and therefore should not be listed on product labels. It should only be used as a term to describe specific attributes of products in marketing and promotional materials.
"Our research clearly shows that the majority of consumers do not differentiate between 'natural' and 'organic' and expect products labeled natural to also be organic. So, after careful consideration we determined that introducing a new 'natural' certification seal would not be in the best interest of consumers and could contribute to further confusion," said Howard. "At this juncture, encouraging people to go organic is more important, so we will focus on to the existing organic certification seal and do whatever we can to strengthen that program."
As a first step, Organic & Natural Health will support the work on Organic 3.0 that IFOAM Organics International is leading to make organic the leading innovation towards sustainability in agriculture and healthy products for consumers. She said the organization is also looking at creative ways to make information more accessible to the public about how to identify organic and natural products through personal technology devices.
"Consumers expect organic standards from any product that claims to be 'natural,' so we have to make organic better," says Howard. "'Natural' is not a label claim and we will stand by that position as we continue to educate consumers about the importance of organic food choices and why it matters for their health."
On the topic of consumer education, Howard announced the launch of their first yearlong consumer outreach campaign that will focus on the health benefits of vitamin D and encourage consumers to get their vitamin D levels tested as part of an international population-based nutrient study with research partner GrassrootsHealth. "The Power of D" campaign will leverage the expertise of Organic & Natural Health's newly formed scientific advisory board to bring to light research backing the importance of vitamin D for a variety of health conditions to consumers. The advisory board is led by Dr. Joseph Mercola and founding members include: Dr. Dana Cohen, David Foreman, R.Ph., Dr. Dennis Goodman, Dr. Christine Horner, James LaValle, R.Ph., CCN, Dr. Michael Murray, N.D., and Dr. Ken Redcross. Howard says their intention is to have a new nutrient focus each year that will engage consumers to participate in more population-based nutrient research spearheaded by GrassrootsHealth in order to scientifically prove how specific nutrients have a direct impact on disease prevention.
At the close of the conference, former U.S. senator and attorney general of Arkansas, Mark Pryor, partner at Venable LLP, gave his insight on approaching attorney general offices in light of the current adverse climate for the supplement industry. He stressed the importance of being proactive and organized with the industry's outreach efforts. Pryor advised clearly outlining to attorney general offices all of the ways the industry is currently regulated and to invite their staff to see first hand, good practices of manufacturing facilities. He said cooperation with the offices and getting to know the attorney general staff members is beneficial.