The Importance of Accurate Labeling for Natural Products

As a business that uses only natural ingredients, you want to let your customers know about it. However, it’s important to note that marketing your product as “all-natural” can be a risky move. While consumers do prioritize natural products, it’s important to take a more nuanced approach to labeling. In fact, using the term “all-natural” can pose inherent risks to sustainable businesses. Let’s take a closer look at why this is the case.

Companies Learn a Lesson

In 2016, the FTC took a tough stance on companies claiming “All Natural” on labels when their products included synthetic ingredients like dimethicone. The companies—marketing skin care products, shampoos, and sunscreen—agreed to settle FTC charges of false claims, paving the way for a better definition of “all-natural.” The settlement barred the companies from using the term “all-natural” or similar claims in the future and required evidence for environmental and health claims.

The decision on these complaints has far-reaching implications for using terms like “all-natural.” According to Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “‘All natural’ or ‘100 percent natural’ means just that — no artificial ingredients or chemicals. Companies should take a lesson from these cases.” Settlements like this one demonstrate how regulations and litigation can help define and clarify sustainability claims. 

The Next Step in Defining All-Natural

As we move towards a more sustainable future, it’s important to keep in mind how regulations and litigation can help define and clarify sustainability claims. It’s crucial to prepare for potential challenges that may arise in the process. By learning from past mistakes and examining the litigation landscape, you can better anticipate and navigate any obstacles that may come your way. Settlements like the ones below demonstrate just how important it is to be vigilant and proactive in efforts towards sustainability.

Recent class action lawsuits have highlighted the need to refine the use of terms like “all-natural” to better inform consumers about a product’s environmental friendliness. Consequently, it is important to consider what happens when manufacturing processes alter natural ingredients into those that are not found in nature or when synthetic and harmful chemicals end up in a product despite the use of natural ingredients and processes.

Ingredients in Disguise: The Hidden Consequences of Processing 

Bruno et al. v. Burt’s Bees, Inc.

Burt’s Bees, a company that started making candles out of beeswax, now makes many products, including lip care, labeled as “100% natural.” Their products are Leaping Bunny certified and promote “ingredients from nature.” It’s clear that this company is environmentally aware.

Nevertheless, Burt’s Bees is defending itself against a class action lawsuit that claims its 100% natural labeling is false. The heart of the suit is that hydrogenation transforms natural oils into synthetic ingredients. According to the claim, ”Hydrogenation is a process by which unsaturated fatty acids in vegetable oil are converted to saturated fatty acids.” The complaint cites Congress’s definition of synthetic as: 

“‘a [substance] that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring [sources]…” .

7 U.S.C. &6502(21)

Burt’s Bees argued for dismissal, maintaining that hydrogenation does not make the natural oils in its lip products unnatural. The judge dismissed this argument, and the case moved forward; it is still pending. 

The Burt’s Bees case demonstrates that when promoting 100% natural products, you need to be 100% sure that your ingredients stay natural after processing.

100% – A Red Flag

Bounthon et al. v. The Procter & Gamble Co.

Women are becoming more concerned about the health effects of tampons, and companies like P&G have responded by marketing a product made with organic cotton. However, once it put “100%” on the label, consumers and regulators took a closer look. 

When marketing its Pure Cotton tampons, Tampax used phrases like “100% ORGANIC” and “The Best of Science and Nature.” The complaint alleges that the tampons contain PFAS, forever chemicals connected with many health concerns.

A similar case against the makers of OB tampons has been dismissed due to insufficient testing. However, the Tampax case is still pending, demonstrating that overselling sustainability claims can lead regulators to take you at your word – and take another look. 

Promote Your Ingredients without Misleading the Market

As you are looking to make claims about natural ingredients in your products, it’s crucial to use qualified terms, like “contains natural ingredients” or “derived from natural ingredients.” These terms are not only easier to substantiate but can also be further qualified or explained to provide more information to your customers. However, to avoid confusion, it’s important to clearly and conspicuously explain what you mean by “natural” near the claim. Don’t hide this information in fine print – prominently display it to ensure that your customers understand and trust your claims.

When making any product claim, it is always important to refer to local, state, and federal regulations. Green marketing regulations are rapidly changing, and it’s estimated that over half of all sustainability product claims are not compliant with new laws. Consider working with Softly Solutions to navigate this process and reduce your risk of legal non-compliance and reputational damage.

Similar Cases on this Topic

Benefiber

White et al v. GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Holdings

  • Another case with a claim that a product labeled “100% Natural” contains non-natural, synthetic ingredients from chemical processes.
  • GSK settled for $6.5M to avoid the expense of further litigation.

Ice Mountain Bottled Water

Slowinski et al. v. Bluetriton Brands, Inc.

  • Testing found microplastics in bottled water labeled  “100% Natural Spring Water”.
  • This case is pending.

Navigate regulations with confidence! See how Softly’s green claims analysis and monitoring service can save you hours of research


References

  1. FTC Approves Four Final Orders Barring Companies from Making False All-Natural Claims
  2. Bruno et al. v. Burt’s Bees, Inc.
  3. Bounthon et al. v. The Procter & Gamble Co.
  4. You know where your tampon goes. It’s time you knew what goes into it, too | Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney | The Guardian
  5. Lowe et al. v. Edgewell Personal Care Co.
  6. Judge dismisses o.b., Playtex tampon PFAS class action

Information provided is for general purposes only and not legal advice; consult a qualified attorney for personalized guidance. Softly disclaims any liability for actions based on this information.

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