As we have previously reported, FDA is currently seeking public comments on the use of the term “natural” on food labeling (see our previous post here). The announcement came as a surprise since FDA had previously declined requests from consumers, the food industry, and federal judges to define the term. In another surprise move, on April 12, 2016, FTC announced that four companies advertising their personal care products as “all natural” or “100% natural” agreed to settle FTC charges that their ads were false and misleading because the products contained synthetic ingredients.
The products included:
- ShiKia’s “All Natural Hand and Body Lotion” and “All Natural Moisturizing Gel,” which allegedly contain dimethicone, dthyhexyl glycerin, and/or phenoxyethanol;
- Rocky Mountain Sunscreen’s “Natural Face Stick,” advertised as “all natural,” which allegedly contains dimethicone, polyethylene, and other synthetic ingredients;
- EDEN BodyWorks’ “Coconut Shea All Natural Styling Elixir” and “Jojoba Monoi All Natural Shampoo,” which allegedly contain polyquaternium-37, phenoxyethanol, caprylyl glycol, and polyquaternium-7;
- Beyond Coastal’s “Natural Sunscreen SPF 30,” advertised as “100% natural,” which allegedly which allegedly contains dimethicone; and
- California Naturel, Inc.’s “all natural sunscreen,” which allegedly contains dimethicone.
Under the proposed settlements, the companies may not make “all natural” or “100% natural” claims unless they have proper substantiation, i.e., competent and reliable evidence to substantiate any ingredient-related, environmental, or health claims they make. FTC made it clear that the terms “all natural” or “100% natural” may only be used if there is nothing artificial or synthetic in the product.
The FTC’s action is unexpected not only because FDA is currently addressing the use of the term “natural” on food labels, but because FDA does not have an informal policy regarding the use of “natural” on personal care products (as it has for food). Given the absence of applicable regulations or policies, companies should take note of FTC’s action and its strict interpretation of “all natural” and “100% natural.”
 The FTC also issued a complaint against a fifth company for making similar “natural” representations.