Defining the word Natural

I recently attended an online webinar that addressed natural flavors and fragrances and one of the topics discussed was "developing realistic definitions of what is, and is not, natural." First, as a lead-in they talked about the various ins and outs of the word "organic", how it is defined and the legislation that governs that word. The various agencies that have a piece the action as far as defining "organic" is large, varied, international, and (typically) non-binding. I'm deliberately vague because that definition is a related, but different subject from what I wish to cover here. The term organic seems rather fluid at times to me, and to write about it would keep me blogging for days, so I will pass on that effort.

The word natural in the flavor and fragrance industries is unregulated at this time. That means that any company, for any reason, can label a product natural in an effort to market to the yoga moms and other marketing demographic that yearns to use a produce that comes from a "natural" source. At this time there are countless companies selling perfumes labeled natural that are composed of synthetic chemicals. For this reason, we in the Natural Perfumers Guild support the effort to define the term natural.

However, a problem came up when the speaker addressing the definition of what they consider a natural aromatic said that only distilled, extracted, tinctured, infused, CO2-extracted or otherwise innocuously derived aromatics would be considered natural in draft proposed legislative language they're working on. Concretes and absolutes were mentioned as not meeting this criteria, since they are extracted via solvents, such as hexane.

We in the Guild define a natural perfume as one that contains natural aromatics. This includes concretes and absolutes which are extracted via hexane, petroleum ether and other solvents. These solvents are typically carried over into the finished product in the ppm or ppb, and many, if not most, are considered so safe as to meet GRAS standards for food products.

If concretes and absolutes were left out of the definition of allowable aromatics that are natural, that could cripple the ability of natural perfumers to employ the full palette of aromatics, as we would not be able to call our products natural perfumes.

The speaker stated that the Natural Products Association is spearheading the Natural Personal Care Product Standard initiative and that the committee would be meeting the week of April 8th and that a copy of the initiative would be available on their site. I searched but could not find it.

So I put out a call on the Yahoo Natural Perfumery group and the Yahoo NPG groups I host asking for a volunteer with legislative experience who could dig deeper, since time was of the essence, and an old hand with such matters could cut to the chase.

I couldn't have gotten a better person to step up - Steve Earl of Glen Custom Perfumery immediately wrote me and offered his services. He worked on a lot of legislation in the past, and after an hour-long phone conversation, I knew I could have complete confidence in him to relay the concerns, wording and interest of the Natural Perfumers Guild to the proper sources.

Steve immediately drafted a letter to the folks we we needed to reach. The exchange between Steve and the other professionals was increasingly synergistic, the definitions and ideas flowed freely, and within a day he was in touch with the NPA rep in DC who will be at the initiative meeting next week. There will now be an investigation into OVI (Organic Volatile Impurities) levels and we'll need to get our ducks in a row to work through this process, but the quick and responsive communications are very, very encouraging for many reasons.

Thank you Steve! The Guild is tiny and we depend upon the volunteers to help us with our forays into legislation, technical areas, public relations, committees and all matters of opportunities and issues that come up. I will post here as more developments occur in the definition of naturals, especially as it relates to our ability to create natural perfumes.


  1. Thank you Anya for being straight 'on it' at the early stages. Grateful indeed to yourself and Steve for stretching out the hand of communication, for a hopeully satisfactory result. I will be following this with great interest as it involves us all .... every good wish Janita


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