Like many of my friends, I am making a conscious effort to choose natural products over potentially harmful chemical concoctions. So I was happily rolling along buying my ‘natural’ and ‘all natural’ products for my family, willingly paying a premium for these much better, safer ‘natural’ products, and perhaps even a little smug in my ‘doing the right thing’ attitude, but wait...here it comes...the WAKE UP CALL!
My wakeup call came in the form of a CBC Marketplace report sent by a friend. It follows author Adria Vasil (Ecoholic Home) on a hunt for misleading advertising of so-called natural products. Imagine my surprise, or should I say horror, when Ms Vasil reveals that there are no terms set in law or standards governing the use of 'natural' on a consumer label!
I suppose I should have been more diligent: it was only recently (in 2000) that Health Canada began looking at herbal products and even then, they came up with ‘suggested’ practices for manufacturers to improve product safety, rather than standards. (more on that topic another day!)
So what exactly are we getting when we pay up to 40% more for a so-called natural product? Well, in most cases Adria Vasil found virtually no difference. In the case of some baby products, the natural version offered oatmeal or aloe vera to tempt consumers, but some of the other ingredients can be found on Health Canada’s Cosmetic Ingredient Hot List of potentially dangerous chemicals, and/or David Suziki’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ cosmetic chemicals to avoid. These nasty ingredients include carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and environmental pollutants (which in turn contaminate the soil and ground water and end up right back inside us) to name a few!
The International Standards Organization is working on standards for natural products, however it will be still up to the discretion of the manufacturer as to whether or not to implement the suggestions. Currently, it is up to the advertising teams whether or not to label a product 'natural'.
So what does this mean for consumer? Well, read the label! Just because it says `natural`` - buyer beware! You may get more than bargained for!
If you would like to view the report, here it is: http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/lousylabels/.
Have a wonderful week!