Nov. 9 -- How "natural" are your lip balm and body lotion? Hard to say. Unlike the term "organic," the word "natural" isn't regulated by the government. A USDA organic seal on food or beverages means a green consumer can rest easy, but what about lip gloss that calls itself "natural"? A new green seal from the Natural Products Association, a trade organization that boasts about 10,000 members, aims to help consumers identify environmentally friendly options for their skin. The group guarantees that products with the seal are made from renewable or plentiful ingredients that haven't been subjected to any process that significantly alters their purity. A handful of personal-care products from Burt's Bees has earned the seal, among them the Honey Lip Balm and Super Shiny Lip Gloss. Aubrey Organics and JR Watkins Natural Apothecary also have items certified under the National Products Association program. Find the full list at www.naturalproductsassoc.org. "The government has been petitioned a number of times to regulate the term 'natural,' " said Daniel Fabricant, the association's vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. "If you look at the market, 'organic' is only about 10 percent. 'Natural' is the rest of it. We really want to distinguish the A students from the D and the F."
So far, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have steered clear of regulating the terms attached to cosmetics and personal-care items, including "organic," "Earth-friendly" and "natural." The USDA does regulate the term "organic," but only as it relates to agricultural products.
That said, a "natural" product may contain USDA-certified organic ingredients.
Cosmetics companies can "use USDA-certified almonds, or an egg yolk from a USDA-certified egg," said Joan Shaffer, of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. But the USDA in no way monitors the use or application of these products.
In other words, said Shaffer, if you take certified organic tomatoes and rub them in your armpits, that's your own affair.