France changes rules for natural, organic and ‘free from’ advertising claims

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Marketing

Companies will find it harder to make natural and organic claims unless they have the supporting data, due to changes to France’s advertising recommendations.

The country’s advertising regulatory body ARPP (Autorité de Régulation Professionelle de la Publicité) has published new recommendations for the cosmetics and beauty industry in response to changes to the market and product developments.

According to the new recommendations, products should only be labelled as natural if they contain a minimum of 95 per cent natural ingredients or ingredients of natural origin.

In addition, the new rules suggest the use of the word organic should also be more tightly monitored.

Under the new rules, a product should only be labelled organic if it is made up of 100 per cent organic ingredients, or if it has been certified organic by a certifying body, or if it has been developed following a protocol, in terms of percentage of organic ingredients, that is similar to those required by certifying bodies.

As in many countries the publicity industry is largely self regulating in France – there are no legal repercussions if rules are not kept to – however, Joseph Besnainou the Director General of ARPP explained that globally these recommendations are usually respected.

“There is no legal standing to these recommendations but they serve to help the companies that apply them to avoid problems with consumers, the courts, the CSA ​[body regulating audiovisual broadcasting] and interest groups,”​ he explained.

“We apply these recommendations as best we can, and generally speaking our members respect them.”

‘Free from’ marketing

The recommendations also include a section on ‘free from’ marketing.

According to Besnainou, the number of products using this type of marketing has grown significantly in the last few years prompting the organisation to consider it.

ARPP’s new recommendations state that products should only advertise they are ‘free from’ a certain ingredient if it is done in a positive way, and if is true.

In other words a product can only say it is paraben-free, if it truly contains no parabens and if it does not make any negative statements about parabens.

A number of industry insiders have expressed concern about the effect ‘free from’ claims can have on an ingredient’s reputation with consumers; advertising ‘free from parabens’ even if there are no negative statements to back it up may send a message to consumers that the ingredients should be avoided.

Commenting on criticisms that the ARPP’s step may not go far enough, Besnainou said that the issue was complex but that a company has a right to make a statement of fact about its product and what it contains in the product marketing.

“After all we do not say a fat-free yoghurt is not allowed to advertise itself as fat-free,”​ he said.

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