Organic & Natural Health Association (Organic & Natural) formed a year ago, dedicated to creating and promoting transparent business practices that safeguard access to organic and natural food, products and services. The nonprofit trade association whose founding board members include Todd Harrison, partner at Venable, LLP, Joe Sandler, partner of the Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, P.C., and Charles Brown, national counsel for Consumers for Dental Choice, founder and president of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry and former attorney general of West Virginia, have been actively working on many initiatives to improve the integrity of the natural products industry while creating a groundswell of support from leading industry companies.
“We recognize that we are advocating for the highest level of standards and transparency for the industry and that there are some who may not feel ready for this level of scrutiny,” said Karen Howard, CEO and executive director of Organic & Natural. “Our leadership and membership is comprised of first-rate companies and consumer organizations that understand we have to put the integrity of the industry first as part of a long-term strategy. It’s the only way we will ultimately win consumer trust and loyalty.”
Board leadership for Organic & Natural also includes Steve Rye, CEO of Mercola Health Resources, Alan Lewis, director of food and agriculture policy at Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Todd Norton, vice president of business development at Aker BioMarine, Reid Tracy, president and CEO of Hay House Inc., Dan Lifton, CEO for Quality of Life Labs, Chris Holland, vice president of sales and marketing for Beijing Gingko Group North America (BGG) and Patrick Sullivan, Jr., president and co-founder of Jigsaw Health.
Organic & Natural’s founding members include Aker BioMarine, American Nutrition Association, BGG, Capsugel, Dr. Mercola Premium Supplements, Hay House Inc., International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), Jigsaw Health, Organic Consumers Association, Quality of Life Labs, RFI Ingredients and Venable LLP. In its first year, Organic & Natural has engaged in some high-profile issues surrounding the natural products industry.
Last July, Organic & Natural submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in support of the claims made by iHealth, Inc., and Martek Biosciences Corp., asserting that the FTC’s second-guessing regarding the conclusions of a randomized, peer-reviewed and published clinical study violated commercial speech. Organic & Natural will pursue a legislative remedy to require transparency in FTC cases this fall during Congressional oversight hearings.
In October of last year, Organic & Natural announced their initiative to set the standard for natural products by creating transparent and objective criteria for the use of the term ‘natural,’ thereby putting the power of informed choice into consumers’ hands and creating clear differentiation of high-quality natural foods, products and services. The organization launched a consumer survey that was completed earlier this year. The data from the national survey has now been analyzed and Organic & Natural plans to have a completed definition of the term ‘natural’ by this October that will be followed by a voluntary regulatory compliance and certification program in the first quarter in 2016.
Last December, Organic & Natural announced its partnership with GrassrootsHealth to sponsor the development of nutrient research conducted by the nonprofit’s consortium of scientists, institutions and professionals. Some of the key nutrients that will be researched include vitamin D, vitamin K2, calcium and magnesium.
In April, Organic & Natural was the first industry trade organization to meet with the New York attorney general’s office regarding the investigation into the herbal supplement industry. Organic & Natural also filed a citizen petition with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May, requesting the FDA amend current regulation in order to bring raw material manufacturers under 21 CFR Part 111 and to clarify the private-label distributors obligations under those standards. The NY AG’s office reinforced Organic & Natural’s citizen petition by including portions of it in their own letter to the FDA urging the agency to immediately enhance its oversight of the dietary supplement industry by reforming its Dietary Supplement Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) regulations. Organic & Natural’s next course of action will be to take its citizen petition to Capital Hill to ask members of Congress to support this common sense regulatory action.