Making “Natural” Claims? Proceed with Caution!

OneCert has become aware of some recent lawsuits targeting organic products that falsely make a “natural” claim. In recent years there have been many lawsuits and FTC complaints over the use of “all natural” or “100% natural claims” claims, when in fact, the product contains synthetic ingredients. 

The FTC and FDA do not formally define “natural,” but the USDA organic regulations do define natural as a synonym of nonsynthetic:

Nonsynthetic (natural). A substance that is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a synthetic process as defined in section 6502(21) of the Act (7 U.S.C. 6502(21)). For the purposes of this part, nonsynthetic is used as a synonym for natural as the term is used in the Act.

Section §205.2 of the National Organic Program (NOP)

However, it is important to note that “organic” is NOT the same as “natural.” In fact, the NOP regulations do allow the use of some synthetic materials in crop and livestock production, and as ingredients and processing aids. Specifically:

  • §205.601 lists synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production
  • §205.603 lists synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production
  • §205.605(b) lists synthetic nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).”

We caution organic operations against making “all natural” or similar claims. These claims should definitely not be used if a product may contain synthetic ingredients or use synthetic processing aids.

OneCert reviews our client’s labels for compliance with the USDA National Organic Program or other accredited programs. Although we may point out any gross violations of other applicable labeling laws that we observe during review, please note that we do not review and approve other claims on labels which may be subject to other Federal or State regulations. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to apply all applicable laws and regulations in the formulation and labeling of products.