« Natural Beauty Summit tackles certification fragmentation | Main | Pine Oil Tick and Mosquito Repellent »

June 18, 2008

NPA moves ahead with its "Natural" Product Seal

The Natural Products Association (NPA) has announced that applications for its "Natural Standard" certification are available. The certification process will be based on the NPA Standard published on May 1 [PDF] and discussed here previously (which is not quite ready for prime time, in this reviewer's opinion). Certification will cost $500 per product for members of the NPA, and $1,250 for non-members. The standard requires that labeled products must be made with at least 95% all natural ingredients.

Since the NPA's membership fees for suppliers are not posted on their website, it's difficult to determine what impact this will have on small suppliers who would like to use the seal.  Since the public seems to be more aware of the "Organic" designation, and there are two competing seal programs (OASIS and NSF/ANSI) out there, it may turn out that there isn't even a place for a natural products standard and certification program.  There have been other attempts to define "natural" products, notably the Natural Ingredients Resource Center (NIRC) and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CFSC). The problem with all of these is that they tend to define "Natural" (a positive) by stating what isn't natural (a negative definition).

The NPA definition of "Natural" from their May 1 version of the standard is:

Ingredients that come or are made from a renewable resource found in nature (Flora, Fauna, Mineral), with absolutely no petroleum compounds.

The NPA goes on in their draft standard to specifically list allowed and prohibited ingredients (although the natural ingredients are on an attached list that doesn't seem to be attached) and then has an "Illustrative List of Allowed Ecological Processes".

This contrasts with the NIRC definition (partially quoted):

Natural Ingredients include  plant, animal, mineral or microbial ingredients...

  • present in or produced by nature.

  • produced using minimal physical processing.*

  • directly extracted using simple methods, simple chemical reactions or resulting from naturally occurring biological processes.*

Neither of these definitions really have much "meat" compared to the definitions included in the "real" standards that have been proposed (OASIS & ANSI/NSF Organic Standards), both of which have over 60 definitions of terms that need to be precise so people know what the standard really means.

The "Natural" standard process has not been transparent and subject to the scrutiny that it needs to be subjected to. Moving ahead with it before it has been vetted by the industry and consumers is definitely not in the best interest of either. There has been some discussion of these issues in closed mailing lists, but that does little to force the NCA to open up the process and produce a real standard that has some meaning and can work effectively.

For more information, an article in the June Perfumer&Flavorist discusses "The Case for Natural Personal Care Standards." (Sorry, they make you pay for it.) Although the article contains some misinformation, it is a generally good overview of the state of standards issues as it stood before the Natural Beauty Summit.

Posted by Rob on June 18, 2008 in Politics, Regulatory Issues, Safety/Toxicity, Standards | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference NPA moves ahead with its "Natural" Product Seal:


"The "Natural" standard process has not been transparent and subject to the scrutiny that it needs to be subjected to. Moving ahead with it before it has been vetted by the industry and consumers is definitely not in the best interest of either."

I have to speak up and disagree with this statement. While I agree that I was not successful with the NIRC, it was not for lack of trying nor any lack of transparency. A short history:

"The Meaning of Natural:Part II
Several months ago, this column addressed the issue of the word natural and what it means to both consumers and companies producing products that claim to be natural in some way, shape, or form. Natural means many things to many people, and the one thing most of us perhaps can agree upon is that the word does have significance for various consumers and producers. It is unfortunate that established associations, although well meaning in their mutual intent and demonstrating competence in fulfilling a variety of important functions, have been able to do little to tackle this pervasive issue.

Well, the issue has finally “come to a head” in many forms. For me, it is as I am confronted repeatedly on the conference circuit by members of very large and influential organizations, such as when I recently addressed the Consumer Specialty Products Association’s annual meeting, on what really defines this elusive and sometimes stubborn natural products industry. In some cases, I have been told that natural products are a figment of my imagination. I obviously find this difficult to accept and my answer has always been, “The consumer believes that natural products exist and are clamoring for more of them, and therefore it is up to us as responsible marketers to provide products that address this need.”

It is for this reason that I have resolved to found and co-direct the International Association of Natural Product Producers (IANPP) in conjunction with Susan Apito, president of the Botanical Elements Trade Association. The primary purpose of this not-for-profit organization is to reach common ground with charter members to define the word “natural” across all product categories, establish criteria, develop labeling guidelines, and eventually enact a certification process so that we can alleviate much of the confusion throughout the value chain. The ultimate goal is to have all players as members and develop a highly informative website to educate the buying public as well as the members of the business community on the true nature of “natural”.

IANPP will be accepting a limited number of charter members for the next couple of weeks. Involvement from industry leaders is a must so that we can operate efficiently and be as proactive as possible Please feel free to visit www.IANPP.org for information and to view what we have already compiled.


+++[by the time the follow-up article published, I left the organization]+++

"Natural Personal Care Update: Self-Regulation may be around the Corner

2005-06-27 - by Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBA

Last year, I penned an article entitled “The Meaning of Natural: A Call to Action”. That piece became the impetus for initiating and managing a task force comprised of organizations of all shapes and sizes with a specific mission of addressing what makes an ingredient natural. The result was the formation of the International Association of Natural Product Producers (IANPP), a group of 25 organizations, which began a process of defining “natural” for both topical and ingestible ingredients. Today, nine months after its inception, the group announced that it had achieved agreement and has posted its findings on its website, www.IANPP.org.

This potentially groundbreaking work could mean much to the natural products industry. Once the public comment period ends in late August, the group hopes to make the information as relevant as possible to the industry by attracting thousands of members and establishing a process for self-regulating the use of the term in product marketing communications and labeling, in the absence of any meaningful legislation and government regulation.


When the IANPP was unable to make any headway in spite of their team effort, I started the Natural Ingredient Resource Center [NIRC]. I believed then and believe now, the criteria is appropriate and not so relaxed that it is the natural version of greenwashing. I stand behind it, even though it has not become the "industry standard" for natural products.


The criteria in full is:


Natural Ingredients include
plant, animal, mineral or
microbial ingredients...

present in or produced by nature.

produced using minimal physical processing.*

directly extracted using simple methods, simple chemical reactions or resulting from naturally occurring biological processes.*

Natural ingredients are...

grown, harvested, raised and processed in an ecological manner.

not produced synthetically.

free of all petrochemicals.

not extracted or processed using petrochemicals.

not extracted or processed using anything other than natural ingredients as solvents.

not exposed to irradiation.

not genetically engineered & do not contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Natural ingredients do...

not contain synthetic ingredients.**

not contain artificial ingredients including colors or flavoring.

not contain synthetic chemical preservatives.

* Minimal Processing means the ingredient has had no more processing than something which could be made in a household kitchen, stillroom, on a farm, or vineyard. It doesn't mean they have to actually be made in those settings, but that they would require no more equipment or technology than that which could be employed in those settings. Simple Extraction Methods/Simple Chemical Reactions include cleaning, cold pressing, dehydration, desiccation, drying, evaporation, filtering, grinding, infusing [water or natural alcohol], & steam or water distilling.

** Produced by synthesis, a compound made artificially by chemical reactions, from simpler compounds or elements. The NIRC has allowed for an exception in the case of "lye" in the manufacture of soap. Please see the Resources page.

Marcia, I asked for help, advice, comments and input from the industry in every way I had available to me.

"COMMENT PERIOD: We invited consumers, manufacturers, retail representatives and any other interested parties to review and offer constructive input on the voluntary standards we have developed. The NIRC values this important role. The comment period ended on January 31, 2005." [It started in October, 2004]

I agree...I failed. But it seems to me that the companies involved in the NPA are industry leaders; I myself have held of Farmaesthetics as a role model for true, real, natural products, I'm not sure the ingredients allowed aren't a bit far from natural. There are certainly products allowed there that would not fit with the NIRC criteria for natural.

But that said, perhaps my standards were unrealistic and too high. I look forward to more comments!

Posted by: Sue Apito | Jun 18, 2008 5:47:27 PM

I didn't mean to be attacking the NIRC definition, although it probably came across that way. In fact, that is probably the best definition that's been published. Marcia understood that the IANPP had folded itself into the NPA. I reported this stuff in a post a couple of months ago. See the Standards category. My skepticism is aimed at the NPA "standard" which really needs more development to become an industry standard. (Maybe just a writing job--compare it for example to the two draft organic standards which are more like standards should be.)
I also look forward to more discussion out in the open, where it can attract some interaction among the players. Unfortunately much of the discussion seems to occur in moderated groups or in private.

Posted by: Rob | Jun 19, 2008 12:28:21 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.