what are natural ingredients

Natural Ingredients include

  • plant, animal, mineral or microbial ingredients…
  • present in or produced by nature.
  • produced using minimal physical processing.*
  • directly extracted using simple methods, simple chemical reactions or resulting from naturally occurring biological processes.*

Natural ingredients are…

  • grown, harvested, raised and processed in an ecological manner.
  • not produced synthetically.
  • free of all petrochemicals.
  • not extracted or processed using petrochemicals.
  • not extracted or processed using anything other than natural ingredients as solvents.
  • not exposed to irradiation.
  • not genetically engineered & do not contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Natural ingredients do…

  • not contain synthetic ingredients.**
  • not contain artificial ingredients including colors or flavoring.
  • not contain synthetic chemical preservatives

what is naturalWhile it is true that there is no official, U.S. government regulated definition for the term natural pertaining to the natural products industry, the FDA refers to natural ingredients as “ingredients extracted directly from plants or animal products as opposed to being produced synthetically.” The agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

The key word there is, “extracted directly”. In the case of some ingredients, it’s easy to see that they fit easily into this definition.



But what about raw materials that need to undergo some processing or chemical reaction in order to extract the ingredient from the natural raw material that is the source?

Even distilling aromatic plants to produce essential oils sometimes results in the creation of chemicals that didn’t exist in the raw material, but which are created by the actual distillation process alone!

The “Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients” says a natural product is defined as

“a product that is derived from plant, animal or microbial sources, primarily through physical processing, sometimes facilitated by simple chemical reactions such as acidification, basification, ion exchange, hydrolysis, and salt formation as well as microbial fermentation. These chemical reactions do not drastically alter the chemical structure of the natural product to be isolated.”

In the early ’80s the FTC came up with a great definition for Natural – never adopted. They said that an ingredient may be called “natural” only if it contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients and has had no more processing than something which could be made in a household kitchen.

The USDA has a legal definition for “natural”, but it applies only to meat and poultry;  “A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. ”

The USDA National Organic Program defines non-synthetic as “a substance that is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a synthetic process”.  They define a 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 plant, animal, or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes.”

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, which is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving only consumers, states; “Natural is a general claim that implies that the product or packaging is made from or innate to the environment and that nothing artificial or synthetic has been added. There is currently no standard definition for the term except for meat and poultry products. Unless otherwise specified, there is no organization independently certifying this claim. The producer or manufacturer decides whether to use the claim and is not free from its own self-interest.”

NIRC Truth in LabelingAnd that is where the Natural Ingredient Resource Center steps in. We have evaluated the various definitions for “natural” within other industries, in other countries, and by other organizations. Our Mission is to create a real, working definition for natural ingredients which can be used by consumers, manufacturers and retailers in the natural products industry; to promote the use of natural ingredients by offering news & resources to learn more about natural ingredients; and to promote “Truth in Labeling” within the natural products industry through the use of a graphic Seal and voluntary agreement to label products according to our “Truth in Labeling” pledge.