FTC Rules California Naturel, Inc. Misled Consumers, Violated the FTC Act. Order bars company from deceptively labeling products as “all natural”

This press release from the FTC is addressing the importance of labeling a product correctly. The link to the press release appears at the bottom of the blog. 

SSA President Dale Read weighs in with regard to labeling and the Mattress Industry.  

     Many main stream and specialty mattress, bedding and top-of-bed manufacturers and retailers market products they refer to as “natural”, “all natural” or “sustainable.”  (Forget claims about “organic” in this discussion.)  These mattress and bedding manufacturers are suggesting that their products are from the farm, from nature, or that they are bio-based, healthier, safer, “natural” or “all-natural.”  The implication is that the products have little or no synthetic ( man-made) materials, nor are made of, or processed with dangerous chemicals.  When the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  launched the newest version of the “truth-in-marketing” Green Guides in October 2012, the FTC specifically side-stepped or avoided enforcing terms such as “natural” or “all-natural”. Announcing the new “Green Guide” s in 2012, the FTC stated,” Finally, either because the FTC lacks a sufficient basis to provide meaningful guidance or wants to avoid proposing guidance that duplicates or contradicts rules or guidance of other agencies, the Guides do not address use of the terms “sustainable,” “natural,” and “organic.”  Organic claims made for textiles and other products derived from agricultural products are covered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program.”

However it now appears that this is all about to change. As of Monday, December 12th. the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced action taken against a company called “Naturel, Inc.” claiming that the company “Misled Consumers and Violated Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.  The FTC findings are quite self-explanatory:      “The Federal Trade Commission has granted summary decision against California Naturel, Inc., for falsely advertising its sunscreen product as “all natural” in violation of Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.  In its opinion, written by Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, the Commission states that the company promotes its “all natural” sunscreen on its website as containing ‘only the purest, most luxurious and effective ingredients found in nature.’  But California Naturel admitted that eight percent of its sunscreen formula is in fact dimethicone, a synthetic ingredient.”

So four points for the mattress/ bedding industry to consider:

•              The FTC has apparently reversed its previous position, and based on a consumer complaints has now decided there is a basis to take action on an “all-natural” claim, if indeed there is even a relatively small percentage of synthetic or man-made material or component in this product. ( eight percent in this case.) 

•               While not a mattress, bedding or textile product ( it is a sunscreen in this case); nevertheless, the principle remains, the same, which is that a company may not claim a product to be “natural’ or ‘all-natural” if even as little as 8 % of the content is synthetic and not a bio-based material.  ( One might even presume that this not only applies to materials or components of a product, but also the processing, handling, man-made chemicals, etc.)

•               The FTC substantiation requirement appears to apply to all “green” claims and environmental or contents claims regardless of whether specifically under enforcement by FTC or not. The FTC basically requires a full reveal requirement to consumers, and that all such claims be substantiated by testing, valid, third-party certifications and /or transparent content claims. 

We at the SSA are fond of saying, “Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” regarding your “natural” or “all-natural” marketing claims.  Tell it like it is. Don’t leave anything out. And surely don’t’ tell the marketplace something that is not true.

•                 The Specialty Sleep Association (SSA), its board members and it officers are not attorneys. We make no legal representations whatsoever, nor are we authorized to speak for the FTC, any government agency, NGO, or any member companies. We are an industry association merely reporting on an action taken by the FTC on December 12th. and our interpretation of that action: a heads-up if you. Therefore, we strongly advise you to seek your private legal counsel or to contact the FTC directly if you have any legal or technical questions regarding marketing “natural”, “all-natural”, “sustainable” or “farm-to-the bedroom” or “healthier and safer” claims.