In response to comments it received about a proposed settlement with personal care companies, the FTC gives clues about its interpretation of the two claims.

Ivan Wasserman, Partner

July 19, 2016

2 Min Read
Is there a difference between 'natural' and 'all natural'? FTC says yes
Ivan Wasserman of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips LLP

I am often asked: "Legally, is there a difference between claiming that a product is "natural" as opposed to "all natural" or "100 percent natural"? While I have done my best to answer that question without any guidance from the government, we finally know what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) thinks—at least for now.

As I previously reported, in April the FTC announced that it had settled four cases against personal care companies that claimed their products were "all natural" or "100 percent natural" even though they contained synthetic chemicals. After the FTC settles a case, it puts the proposed settlement out for public comment for a 30-day period, and then decides whether to make the settlement final. On July 13, after the comment period, the FTC announced that it approved the four final orders in these personal care product cases. As part of that announcement, the FTC released its responses to the comments it had received, including the following:

In your comment, you state that products should not be represented as "natural" if they contain any amount of synthetic ingredients, and that the term must be reserved only for companies that provide complete transparency and proof of the natural chemical makeup of their products. Thus, your comment arguably implies that the consent agreement should prohibit the claim "natural" unless the product is "all natural" (i.e., contains no synthetic ingredients).

The record does not support revising the order in this way. We do not have evidence that consumers necessarily interpret "natural" to mean "all natural" or no synthetic ingredients. Absent such evidence, we do not feel it would be appropriate in this case for us to presume that consumers have that understanding of the term "natural."

So, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, or if there are other elements in an ad that could imply that the product is "all natural," the FTC at least will not assume that "natural" and "all natural" mean the same thing to consumers. Will courts agree? Will the FDA? Stay tuned.

About the Author(s)

Ivan Wasserman

Partner, Amin Talati Upadhye

Ivan Wasserman is one of the nation’s premier attorneys for health, wellness, beauty and other consumer products. Companies of all sizes making, marketing and selling food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, over-the-counter drugs and medical devices praise the depth of his knowledge and experience, his humor and his ability to maintain the human perspective while leading them through this heavily regulated landscape. Frequently cited by the media as a legal authority, Ivan helps his clients launch products and create and execute advertising campaigns that match the clinical evidence they have for their products, paying close attention to the changing rules governing internet marketing, consumer testimonials and social media.

Ivan advocates for clients subject to the often overlapping jurisdictions of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission,  and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.   When advertising disputes arise, he regularly represents companies before the National Advertising Division (NAD) and the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP). He has been included in Best Lawyers in America from 2007 – 2017.

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