Earlier this month the FTC took action against five health and beauty companies. While the products that garnered the FTC attention may have varied (spanning from shampoo to sunblock), the primary charge was the same across all five cases: Falsely claiming that a product containing one or more synthetic ingredients was “All Natural.” For those within the dietary supplement industry, the fact that the FTC went so far as to file claims against these five companies should be reason enough to take notice…
The Thing About Making “All Natural” Claims
Technically speaking, there is no official or standardized set of parameters being used for establishing that a product is “All Natural.” Instead, much of the dietary supplement industry (along with many of the industries that fall into the consumables or health & wellness categories) works off of the general understanding that an “All Natural” product should be free of any synthetic or chemically engineered ingredients or components. The lack of official parameters has created a tremendous amount of grey area, which, it seems, the FTC is starting to take note of.
It’s Only “Mostly Natural”
For all five of the companies involved in this set of claims, the issue wasn’t that their products were entirely synthetic; the issue was that one or two of the ingredients in their “all natural” products were synthetic. Even though the majority of the ingredients may have been “all natural” in nature, the fact that the products contained a handful of secondary ingredients such as Dimethicone, Ethyhexyl Glycerin, and Phenoxyethanol was reason enough for the FTC to make their charges.
Now, we realize that without supporting definitions Dimethicone, Ethyhexyl Glycerin, and Phenoxyethanol have a tendency to become little more than words on a page. For those, like us, who do not specialize in the production of cosmetics or personal care products, Dimethicone is a common lubricant and flow agent, Ethyhexyl Glycerin a conditioning agent, and Phenoxyethanol a germicidal agent that doubles as a preservative.
All three of these components and others like them rarely account for more than a small percentage of a product’s total weight. Arguably, agents like these aren’t at all unlike the flow agents, binding agents, substrates, preservatives and other trace ingredients that – though only accounting for a small percentage of a product formulation – are vital components for most dietary supplement products. What’s more, as things currently stand, there are few easily available natural or organic alternatives for any of these common agents. For an organization like the FTC, taking action against a health and wellness company is a short and easily manageable step away from taking action against a dietary supplement company.
Any dietary supplement manufacturer or brand owner looking to create an “all natural” product and market it as such would be advised to recognize the fact that, especially so far as organizations like the FTC and FDA, “mostly natural” is not the same as “all natural.”