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FTC Goes After 5 ‘Natural’ Companies for False Claims

April 13, 2016, 3:35 PM UTC
Organic supermarket.
Photograph by BSIP UIG via Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission has brought charges against five companies that falsely claim their products are made of “100% natural” or “all-natural” ingredients, even though they contain some synthetic additives.

Rocky Mountain sunscreen, ShiKai shower gel, Eden BodyWorks shampoo, Beyond Coastal sunscreen, and California Naturel sunscreen were all targeted by the FTC under its truth-in-advertising mandate, the agency said Tuesday. Four of the companies settled with the agency and agreed to change their labels and advertising or drop their “all-natural” claims. The FTC is pursuing a lawsuit against one company, California Naturel.

All of the targeted products that claimed 100% natural actually had some form of artificial additives, such as dimethicone or phenoxyethanol, a preservative that’s often used in cleaning products.

“‘All natural’ or ‘100% natural’ means just that—no artificial ingredients or chemicals,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies should take a lesson from these cases.”

The move by the FTC is the first time the agency has targeted natural claims among personal-care products, which represent a booming U.S. market worth roughly $5 billion, reported the Wall Street Journal. There’s no legal definition for “natural” and many companies are using the term even if only a portion of their ingredients are truly plant-derived. The Food and Drug Administration is currently looking into how and if that term should be defined by regulatory agencies.

The FTC said that any company that wants to promote their products as all-natural should have “competent and reliable evidence to support any product claims they make.” It notes that some claims require more scientific evidence, defined as reliable research, analyses, and studies, than others.