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Natural, Smatural…What Does it Mean and Do We Want it Defined?
Posted: January 30, 2008
In the consumer’s world, natural means safer, greener, better for the environment, etc. And although this belief may not entirely be grounded in reality, the fact remains that products labeled as natural have been the force behind a major trend in cosmetics and personal care for years.
According to Ibarra and Johnson,1 the consumer’s perception that natural materials are better tolerated than non-naturally occurring ones in cosmetic applications follows a simple philosophy: the human organism is the product of an evolutionary process lasting millions of years, and human metabolism has adapted to the surrounding chemical environment. As a consequence, consumers conclude that the human body is far more adapted to cope with naturally occurring compounds than with synthetic ones.
A recent piece featured in the FoodNavigator reported that according to Mintel's Global New Products Database, the claim all natural ranked third among the most frequent claims made on food products launched in the in 2007, appearing on 2,617 products. In addition, in Europe, 878 all natural food products were launched last year.
With such growing numbers in the natural arena, there are still no regulations that govern the use of the word natural. There also are no standardized industry guidelines, although some European member states such as in the UK do provide guidelines for use of the term.
According to the FoodNavigator, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently received two petitions to define the term, one from the Sugar Association and another from manufacturer Sara Lee, but stated that it will not be considering the issue in the near future. In addition, the FDA reportedly told the e-publication that it is unsure of how prominent the issue is with consumers and the only way to push the issue onto its radar screen is if the agency was provided with research showing that people have overwhelmingly been misled.