New trade organization forms with mission to define what 'natural' means

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

What does 'natural' mean when applied to a food or a supplement? The new Organic and Natural Health Alliance aims to find out.
What does 'natural' mean when applied to a food or a supplement? The new Organic and Natural Health Alliance aims to find out.

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A new trade organization has formed with the mission to define what 'natural' means.  The nascent Organic and Natural Health Alliance (ONHA) plans to go about defining that attribute in a way that is unique in the natural products business in that it will take consumers’ views into account, one of the organization’s founders said.

“It’s a trade association that engages consumers on a level playing field. That is highly unique in this area,”​ Karen Howard, ONHA director, told NutraIngredients-USA.

Howard said the organization will have its official launch at the Supply Side West trade show in Las Vegas in October.  There the organization will hold the first of a series of meetings with stakeholders on the thorny issue of defining what ‘natural’ means and developing a way to implement that definition in the marketplace. But Howard emphasized that the group wants the process to be as above board as possible and seeks to engage consumers who might be passionate about what they think ‘natural’ means, even if they might be ignorant of most of the details of the operations of food and dietary supplements businesses.

“The process we are going to use is going to be transparent,”​ Howard said. “The sessions we will have on this topic will be open.”

Non-organic ingredients

Some of those accommodations that might seem like insider baseball to uninformed consumers have a real grounding in the hard facts of large-scale food and dietary supplement manufacture.  The list of technically non-organic trace ingredients and excipients that can be included in an ‘organic’ product are an example that comes to mind. These constituents are allowed in circumstances where no organic alternative is available, but to some uniformed consumers this can look like a shady deal cut with big capital, a way in which the organic certification fell short of its promise.

How will this look for the ‘natural’ definition?  Will the definition reach back into the supply chain to find inputs that don’t meet the standard? How far will that delving go? These questions will all be part of the process, Howard said.

“When it comes to food, the organic standard is the core standard. The standard for natural will be different for each of the industries we are going after.  We anticipate it will take about 90 days to define a natural standard for food,” ​she said.

Trade organization Balkanization

The natural products business in the United States already has a number of trade organizations, including the Natural Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the United Natural Products Alliance and the American Herbal Products Association chief among them. Throw in other organizations such as the Consumer Health Products Alliance and the Alliance for Natural Health and you have a Babel that is deplored by national policy makers. To whom should one listen? Why is it necessary to add another voice? Wouldn’t this effort be better served as a committee in one of the existing organizations? Howard said she and the members of her board (which includes attorneys Todd Harrison of the Venable law firm and Joe Sandler, who represents the Organic Consumers Association) are definite that a new organization, one untainted by prior associations or agendas, is called for.

“Everyone has had the chance to do do this work and they haven’t done it. Consumers are just really very confused about what natural means. Certainly the courts are having their struggles with the meaning. And FDA has made it abundantly clear that they are not going to take this on at the moment,” ​ Howard said.

Consumer culture

Including consumers in the process will dramatically alter the organization’s culture, Howard said. Trade organizations are primarily focused on representing their members’ interests with government, and keeping the long arm of the regulators at bay.  They can sometimes be put in awkward positions when powerful members take actions that might seem at cross purposes to the organization’s mission statement. In the case of OHNA, listening to what consumers think and want will be part of the organization’s DNA, Howard said.

“We won’t be unwilling to tackle controversial issues. One of the things that is really different about OHNA is that we will have access to four million consumers to talk to. The power of the consumer is always something that drives business decisions. The companies that come on board need to understand the commitment they will be making to transparency and to process. There will be some companies that will not want to participate because it will be too hard for them,”​ Howard said.

Define natural to defend organic

In the end, one of the key goals of the organization will be to define natural as a way to defend the existing organic certification, Howard said. For a number of years companies have used the term very loosely to the point where it means little. Yet according to Mintel data use of natural claims remains ubiquitous even in the face of lawsuits over the use of the term that have included such high profile defendants as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Kashi.

“The term ‘natural’ is certainly threatening the credibility of the organic label. We want to support the organic label in any way we can,”​ Howard said.

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Instrumentation for GMO-Controls are available (NASA)

Posted by Dr.Klaus J.Seelig,MD,

Unfortunately an essential part of my comment had been deleted somehow and was not shown:

New instruments could and should be made available (which have been used like on Moon and Mars-Missions) to sniff for organic gases. As these can differentiate between C3 and C4 or GMO and Transgene and also up to which percentage these sorts have been used for raising the animals.
Such new technology would allow the health-interested citizens to decide themselves:
Less than 15% of C4 or GMO or Transgene may be accepted as healthy (green)
Up to 40% may be acceptable for short-term-usage only (yellow)
Beyond 50% however will cause trouble to the metabolism of all mammals (including human consumers) on long term consumption (red).

All Health-Interested Citizens and their Insurances should be interested in promoting this Progress which is better than labels with controls for deceipt.

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Definition of GMO and Consumer's Control at store

Posted by Dr.Klaus J.Seelig,MD,

There are - as known since Epstein's "You are what You Eat plus a few ‰" two major and one minor species of plants: 94 % of all plant-sorts were eldest with the C3-Type Photosynthesis of forest-derived plants, forming fibrous lignin- and wood.
4-5% of plant-sorts are Savannah-Type "C4"- forming few fibers but papyrus-, no wood, and Humus deficient for support f. i.f earthworms.
The rest of natural Plants sorts are a sort of mixed abilities , producing spikes and water-preserving organs (cactaceae & Pineapple).
The Metabolism of the 3 sorts is slightly but distinctly different.
Forest derived mammals thrive best with long term health on the wood- & fiber-forming plant-products of C3-species.
The Glucose & starch-products of the
Savannah-type C4-is slightly heavier and "energy-dense" has bound more UV-Energy, but also contains more of the heavy sorts
like the FR- and ROS-forming Heavy Water- bits which disturb the other plants' and
Consumers' Metabolism. The Consequence is
early ripening, early hormonal development, increased fast growth, early wilting and early senescence.

As the genes of C4- plants are now easiest transmitted into the former C3-plants, the deselecting abilities of the new GMO and TRANS-GENE Sorts are reduced, so that all former selective abilities are reduced, the new plants and
their products are enriched with FR-and ROS and radio-activity* of water and air (²D and ³T*-Hydrogens and 13C and 14C* Carbons and the heavier Reactive Oxygen-Species).
The GLUCOSE formed by C3-sorts, choosing the easy-metabolized 98% of the cleaner and lighter species of elements makes the
products better metabolisable, in need of less hormonal alterations for build-up and excretion and compatible for mammals (incl. human consumers) with long term health and thriving.

These Instruments can be made even at handy-size if anybody wanted this Health- and Compatibility-promoting Factor to be the dominant. But as Disease Management and Pop.-Reduction at all Cost is the aim there is the profitable path the research without knowledge & insight of the Consumers.
Especially the YOPI-Groups of consumers (who are the most of costly patients and Citizens kept in dependency and ignorant) as the Young, Old, Pregnant an Immune-disturbed-
would have the most benefit of such a change in the discussion.

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