Here are the underlying principles:
“Nature-identical” ingredients are not considered natural because they are extracted or manufactured using compounds that our bodies and ecosystems have not evolved to process and metabolize.
In order to maintain alignment with international organic and natural certification systems, some ingredients and materials that do not meet these principles have been included in the permitted list. This may be updated in the future based on community input.
Acetic Acid or Synthetic Vinegar (E260) is not permitted for natural food because it is an industrial additive. It may be synthesized from petroleum derivatives. Natural vinegar made by fermenting traditional foods is the recommended alternative.
Sodium borate or borax is a naturally mined boric acid salt used in detergents and as a pesticide. It is permitted, but it is a skin, eye, and respiratory irritant and should be handled carefully.
Cornstarch or cornflour is permitted because it is approved for use in certified organic food, but products containing this ingredient must be clearly labeled for consumers that have dietary restrictions or concerns about food allergies, genetic modification, or industrial processes. Cornstach is used as a thickener. It is produced by soaking, separating, and drying corn. It may be made from genetically modified ingredients.
Cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate or potassium hydrogen tartrate is permitted because it is from a natural mineral or biological source and has been used in traditional diets. Cream of tartar is used as an acidity regulator. It can be combined with baking soda as a raising agent in baking. It is a natural acid byproduct of wine making.
Epsom Salts or magnesium sulfate is permitted because it is from a natural mineral or biological source and has been used in traditional diets. Epsom Salt is an acidity regulator. It can be used as a firming agent in tofu. It is mined from natural mineral deposits.
Ethoxylated ingredients are synthetic conditioning and cleaning agents that are frequently contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. The ingredients often contain the letters “eth,” e.g. polyethylene glycol (PEG), ceteareth, and sodium laureth sulfate. They are not permitted. Ethylene oxide is a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane is a possible human carcinogen. They have been linked to brain, breast, and uterine cancer and leukemia. Ethylene oxide can also harm the nervous system and may interfere with human development. The 1,4 dioxane contaminant is persistent and can bioaccumulate in the environment.
Calcium and sodium fluoride are permitted in toothpastes for oral cavity prevention if it is clearly labeled so customers can choose.
Synthetic food dyes that are made out of petroleum products and coal tar are not permitted. They are not active or necessary ingredients, and they can have adverse health and environmental effects. Plant-based food colors can be purchased or made at home from natural ingredients like beetroot (red) and spinach (green). Some companies produce concentrated plant-based food colors that are as bright as artificial petroleum-based food colors. Commercial plant-based food colors that are made with synthetic additives or solvents like hexane and acetone are not permitted.
Formaldehyde releasers are synthetic preservatives that slowly form formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Examples include DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quarternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate. Formaldehyde releasers are not permitted. Formaldehyde may off-gas and be inhaled. It can also be absorbed through the skin. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives can also cause allergic skin reactions and may be persistent in the environment.
Genetically modified (GM) organisms are produced in a lab by inserting the genes from one species into another species to achieve a desired trait. This creates crosses that would not be possible through natural breeding. There are many applications in a controlled setting, but the long-term health and environmental impacts of GM organisms in natural ecosystems and consumer products are unknown. Following the precautionary principle, they are not permitted in agricultural or consumer products or any applications outside of a controlled laboratory setting. The most common GM crops are canola, corn, cotton, soy, and sugar beets. Ingredients commonly derived from GM crops include: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin C, citric acid, sodium citrate, ethanol, flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), high-fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, lecithin, maltodextrins, molasses, monosodium glutamate, sucrose, textured vegetable protein (TVP), xanthan gum, vitamins, and yeast products.
Glycerin is not permitted as a food additive because it is not a traditional or natural food. It is used in food as a sweetener. Glycerin is a natural byproduct of the soap making process. Glycerin and glycerol derived from natural biological sources are permitted in personal care products. Synthetic propylene-based glycerol is not permitted.
Heavy metals (e.g. arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury) are frequently present in skin whiteners and colored cosmetics including lipstick, eye liner, eye shadow, blush, concealer, and nail polish. They are not permitted. Some heavy metals are intentionally added as an ingredient (e.g. calomel, mercuric, thimerosal, lead acetate). Others are present as contaminants and are not listed on the labels. For example, when 33 popular brands of lipstick in the US were independently tested in 2007, 61 percent contained lead. Exposure to lead is not safe at any level. Lead can cross the placenta and enter the fetal brain and can be transferred to infants via breastfeeding. Heavy metals build up in the body over time and cause a wide range of health problems including brain damage, cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, neurological problems, cardiovascular, skeletal, kidney, respiratory, and immune system problems
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is not permitted because it is an industrial sweetener. It is not a traditional or natural food. The production process separates fructose and glucose which affects how it is processed by the body. High fructose corn syrup is associated with increased weight gain, cancer, liver stress, and diabetes. It may be made from genetically modified ingredients.
Hydrogenated oil and margarines containing hydrogenated oil are not permitted because they are not traditional or natural food. Hydrogenated oil or trans fats are made by synthetically altering the chemical structure of vegetable oils. This process increases shelf life and lowers costs for manufacturers. Most margarine is made from refined, solvent-extracted oils and may contain synthetic colors, emulsifers and genetically modified ingredients.
Microbeads are tiny particles of plastic that are used as exfoliating agents in face and body scrubs and toothpastes. They are not permitted. Microbeads are not caught by waste water treatment systems and flow directly into natural waterways. They are not biodegradable and once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove. They contribute to the “plastic soup” swirling around the world’s oceans. Marine animals absorb or eat microbeads and they are passed through the food chain. The long-term impact of this recently introduced product is unknown. A few states and countries have started the process to ban the production and sale of products containing microbeads, but they are still produced and used globally.
Nanoparticles are materials less than 100 nanometers in size. Particles exhibit new and unexpected properties at the nanoscale. For example, they are able to pass through cell membranes. There are many potential applications in a controlled setting, but the long-term health and environmental inputs of using nanoparticles in natural ecosystems and consumer goods is unknown. Nanoparticles are not currently subject to safety testing, regulation, or labeling in most places. Following the precautionary principle, the use of nanoparticles outside of controlled environments is not recommended. Nanoparticles are currently used in a number of consumer goods including food, supplements, cosmetics, personal care, apparel, cookware, toys, pet products, cleaning supplies and building materials.
Oxybenzone, octinoxate and octylmethoxycinnamate (OMC) are synthetic ingredients used in sunscreens. They are not permitted. These compounds are linked to inflammation, eczema, and allergies and increase production of harmful free radicals. They are persistent in the body and are particularly toxic when exposed to sunlight. Oxybenzone, octinoxate and octylmethoxycinnamate (OMC) may have DNA-altering affects, contribute to skin cancer, liver toxicity, and hormone and reproductive disruption.
Palm oil is permitted because it is from a natural mineral or biological source and has been used in traditional diets, but products containing this ingredient must be clearly labeled for consumers that have dietary restrictions or concerns about sourcing and industrial processes. The palm oil industry is associated with environmental destruction, habitat loss, and human rights abuses. Refined palm oil may be extracted with toxic solvents. Sustainably sourced and expeller pressed traditional oils are recommended.
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) contain many strong carbon-fluorine bonds. They are persistent in the human body and the environment and have been associated with testicular cancer, kidney cancer, liver malfunction, hormonal changes, thyroid disruption, infertility, and child development issues. PFCs are used to make products resistant to water, stains, grease or oil. Common brands include Teflon®, Scotchgard™, Stainmaster® and Gore-Tex®. PFCs are used in clothing, carpeting, furniture, non-stick cookware and utensils, personal care products, cosmetics, dental floss, microwave popcorn bags and fast food containers. New products with perfluorinated chemicals not permitted.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is made from vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen, which is associated with breast and liver cancer. It is softened with phthalates or bisphenols which are endocrine disruptors linked to reproductive health issues. The manufacture and incineration of PVC releases dioxin, a potent carcinogen that bioaccumulates. PVC is used in packaging, stickers, home furnishings, children’s toys, automobile parts, building materials, hospital supplies, artificial leather, and hundreds of other products. PVC is not recommended, but it can be difficult to source PVC free materials (e.g. stickers and labels) in some parts of the world. Consumers should be informed if PVC materials are used and efforts should be made to transition to PVC free options.
Salicylic acid and its salts are synthetic preservatives and are not permitted for food and beverages. In order to maintain alignment with international organic and natural certification systems, salicylic acid and its salts are permitted for personal care products. They are not recommended ingredients, and they must be clearly labeled so customers can choose. Salicylic acid an be irritating to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. It enhances skin absorption of other ingredients and can cause allergic reactions. Salicylic acid may be neurotoxic.
Synthetic detergents and foaming agents are cheaper to produce than true soaps, but they can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract, break down cells, damage the skin’s immune system, accelerate the aging process, and have a negative environmental impact. When they enter the water system, they are harmful to fish and wildlife. Harsher synthetic detergents and petroleum-based synthetic detergents are not permitted. These include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES), and cocoamidopropyl betaine. SLES and ALES are ethoxylated and may be contaminated with carcinogenic ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Milder plant-based detergents like coco glucoside, decyl glucoside, lauryl glucoside, caprylyl/capryl glucoside, cocoyl methyl glucamide, sucrose cocoate, and sodium coco sulfate are permitted. Natural surfactants like soap, soap nuts, yucca extract, shikakai powder, and soapwort are recommended.
Synthetic fragrances are not permitted. They are not active or necessary ingredients, and they can have adverse health and environmental effects. Synthetic fragrances include an estimated 3,000 chemical compounds, and the majority have not been tested for toxicity, alone or in combination. Fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets, so manufacturers are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients. Some fragrance ingredients are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors, some can trigger allergies, asthma, and migraines, and some are harmful to fish and wildlife.
Talc is a mined mineral used to reduce skin moisture. It is related to asbestos and is not permitted. Talc is a known carcinogen associated with ovarian cancer, lung cancer and respiratory disorders. It is commonly found in baby powders.
Toluene is a petrochemical solvent used in nail polish. It is not permitted. Inhalation of toluene can affect the central nervous system and cause drowsiness, headache, nausea, and respiratory problems. It is associated with immune system toxicity. Exposure during pregnancy may affect fetal development. Toluene is linked to birth defects.
Vegan products do not contain any animal byproducts. In order to be labeled as vegan, products must be free of meat, eggs, dairy, gelatin, honey, beeswax, leather, fur, silk, wool, etc.
Vitamin A compounds are not permitted in skin care products. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient but not necessarily safe for use on skin. Sunlight breaks down Vitamin A to produce toxic free radicals that damage DNA and contribute to cancerous skin lesions and tumors. Look for retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, or retinol on label.
Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant extracted from vegetable oils and is permitted for personal care products. It may come from genetically modified sources or be extracted with hexane or other petrochemicals. Tocopheryl acetate is not permitted because it may irritate skin and may be contaminated with hydroquinone.
Washing soda or sodium carbonate can be naturally mined. It can also be made by treating soda ash with carbon dioxide. It is permitted as a natural cleaner. Washing soda is more caustic than baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and cannot be eaten.
Refined white sugar is permitted because it is approved for use in certified organic food, but products containing this ingredient must be clearly labeled for consumers that have dietary restrictions or concerns about food allergies, genetic modification, or industrial processes. Less refined natural sweeteners are recommended.
Sugar made from sugar beets may be genetically modified. Sugarcane producing countries usually sell raw sugar which has a light brown color or white sugar which is filtered and bleached with sulfur dioxide. Raw sugar can be further refined through treatment with phosphoric acid or carbon dioxide and calcium hydroxide. People with sulfite sensitive may choose to avoid bleached white sugar. Vegans may choose to avoid refined white sugar that is filtered through animal bone char. Some darker brown sugars are made by adding molasses to refined white sugar. Powdered sugar, also called icing sugar, is made by mechanically crushing refined white sugar. An anti-caking agent such as calcium phosphate or cornstarch is usually added to powdered sugar. The cornstarch may be genetically modified.
Xanthan gum is permitted because it is approved for use in certified organic food, but products containing this ingredient must be clearly labeled for consumers that have dietary restrictions or concerns about food allergies, genetic modification, or industrial processes. Xanthan gum is used as a thickener and stabilizer. It is produced through fermentation of a sugar solution by the bacteria Xanthomonas camestris. The resulting gum is purified, dried, and powdered. The sugar solution may be derived from corn, soy, whey, or wheat, which can be a concern for people with allergies or food intolerances. Corn and soy may be genetically modified.
Yeast is permitted because it is from a natural mineral or biological source and has been used in traditional diets. These microorganisms are used as a raising agent in bread. Commercial baker’s yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae that is dried for storage.
Zinc oxide is manufactured from mined zinc. It is an effective physical sunscreen. Non-nano zinc oxide is permitted. Since nanoparticles can penetrate the skin, the health and environmental effects are unknown. Nanoparticle zinc oxide is not permitted.