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Organic and natural ingredients

Many chemical ingredients are derived from natural sources - such as plant essences and minerals - and are labelled as ‘natural’, ‘organic’, 'herbal' or ‘pure’. However, they may not meet our definition of a naturally occurring chemical because of the process used to extract the chemical from its source.

If all the ingredients in your products meet our legal definition of a naturally occurring chemical (and you don’t introduce any other industrial chemicals), then you do not need to register with us.

The legal definition of a naturally occurring chemical is:

  • an unprocessed chemical occurring in a natural environment; or
  • a chemical occurring in a natural environment that is extracted without chemical change by manual, mechanical or gravitational means; or dissolution in water; or flotation; or
  • a process of heating for the sole purpose of removing uncombined water

What is a naturally occurring chemical?

Naturally occurring chemicals can be either:

  • an unprocessed chemical that is found in nature, such as chemicals from plants, micro-organisms, animals, the earth and the sea
  • a chemical that is found in nature and extracted using a process that does not change its chemical composition

If all the ingredients in your product that you import or manufacture meet our definition of a naturally occurring chemical, then you do not need to register with us.

It’s important to note that most processes used to extract chemicals and aroma compounds from the natural environment - such as steam distillation and solvent extraction - create ingredients that do not meet the legal definition of ‘naturally occurring’ because their chemical composition has been changed.

If an ingredient in your product does not meet our definition of a naturally occurring chemical, you must register your business with us before you can import or manufacture it.

You must also check to see if the chemical is on our Inventory. If your chemical is not listed on our Inventory, or it is listed but your proposed use is not covered by the terms of the listing, then you will need to categorise your introduction.

If one of the ingredients in your product meets our definition of naturally occurring, you still need to check all the others and register with us if any of the ingredients do not meet this definition.

Brian want to import herbal cosmetics that "don't contain chemicals" to sell commercially. However, the herbal ingredients include argan oil that was extracted using a solvent and essential oils manufactured from plants using steam distillation. These ingredients do not meet our definition of 'naturally occurring' are therefore regulated as industrial chemicals.

Brian must register his business and check to see if these chemicals are on our Inventory.

Brian is unsure of the process he needs to follow to import his herbal cosmetics, so he also checks the 'basics of importing and manufacturing chemicals' page for step-by-step instructions.

Example: Judy wants to import a ‘natural’ room deodoriser that includes lavender essential oil and frankincense resin to sell in her retail store. Both of these ingredients were manufactured using either steam distillation or solvent extraction and therefore do not meet the legal definition of 'naturally occurring'.

Judy must register her business with us and check to see if these chemicals are on our Inventory. 

Keep reading for more examples that will help you if you work out if your chemical introduction is defined as naturally occurring.

Extraction processes that do not cause a chemical change

Extraction by manual, mechanical or gravitational means

A chemical is defined as naturally occurring if it is extracted by any of these methods.

Method Definition
Filtration the solid and liquid parts of a mixture are mechanically separated by passing it through a porous medium
Centrifugation the solid and liquid parts of a mixture are separated by mechanical or gravitational means
Sedimentation the solid and liquid parts of a mixture are separated by enabling the suspended solids to settle via gravity
Cold pressing a liquid-solid mixture is separated by squeezing it to obtain the liquid
Sieving the solids in a mixture are separated on the basis of their particle size

Extraction by dissolution in water (for water-soluble chemicals)

A chemical is defined as naturally occurring if it is separated from other components in a mixture using water.

For example:

  • extracting sugar from sugar beets
  • leaching soluble tea from tea leaves
  • extracting a water-soluble chemical from mineral ore

Flotation

A chemical is defined as naturally occurring if it is separated from waste rock or solids using a flotation process.

For example:

  • mineral ore is pulverised and mixed with water and chemicals that cause preferential wetting of the solid particles. Air bubbles then carry the unwetted particles to the surface to obtain a mineral concentrate
  • lead, zinc and copper concentrates are manufactured this way

Heating for the sole purpose of removing uncombined water

A chemical compound is defined as naturally occurring if it is purified or concentrated using heat to remove uncombined water.

For example:

  • drying a wet clay or mineral, where moisture is not chemically bound to the substrate

Extraction processes that cause a chemical change

Solvent extraction

A chemical is no longer defined as naturally occurring if it is extracted by dissolving the source material in a solvent or a mixture of solvents and water.

For example:

  • argan oil that is manufactured from crushed kernels via lipophilic solvents
  • plant-produced compounds that are removed from the source plant material via solvents such as methanol

Steam distillation

If a chemical or aroma compound is isolated from its source through steam distillation, it does not meet the definition of a naturally occurring chemical.

For example:

  • essential oils that are manufactured from plants using steam distillation
  • petrochemicals that are manufactured using steam stripping

Examples of naturally occurring chemicals

We don't have a list of approved chemicals or ingredients to use in products. But here are some examples of chemicals that are - or are not - defined as naturally occurring. As you’ll see, it depends on the process used to extract the chemical.

  Naturally occurring Not naturally occurring

Essential oils

Aroma compounds extracted from plant materials are commonly used in cosmetics.

If you produce essential oils using maceration, cold-press extraction or water distillation of plants, then they are defined as naturally occurring chemicals. If you produce essential oils using steam distillation or solvent extraction of plants - including the stems, leaves, roots, flowers or fruit - then they are not defined as naturally occurring chemicals. These processes change the chemical composition of the source product.

Argan oils

This plant oil extracted from the kernels of argan tree is commonly used in cosmetics.
If you produce Argan oil by cold-pressing the fruit and seeds from Argania spinosa, then it is defined as a naturally occurring chemical. If you deodorise (the selective removal of volatile compounds from the oil using steam) the Argan oil after cold-pressing, then it is not defined as a naturally occurring chemical. This process changes the chemical composition of the source product.

Plant extracts

Extracts from the leaves, roots or flowers of a plant can have industrial uses and are often included in cosmetics or cleaning products.
If you freeze-dry a plant (or part of a plant), grind the material and then use water to obtain the extracts, those extracts are defined as naturally occurring chemicals. If you extract the ground-up plant with a solvent other than water (such as methanol), then it is not defined as a naturally occurring chemical. This process changes the chemical composition of the source product.
Beeswax Beeswax that is heated to remove any water is defined as a naturally occurring chemical. If you treat beeswax at any stage with bleaching earth or activated carbon (for example, to change the colour of the wax), then it is not defined as a naturally occurring chemical. This process changes the chemical composition of the source product.

Chemicals used in construction

These chemicals are defined as naturally occurring if they These chemicals and products contain ingredients are obtained from the earth without chemical or heat processing: non-bleached clays silica mined gypsum.

These chemicals and products contain ingredients are obtained from the earth without chemical or heat processing: non-bleached clays silica mined gypsum that are not defined as naturally occurring: lime soda cement mortar grout epoxies.

Mineral ores These mineral ores are defined as naturally occurring if they are obtained from the earth without chemical or heat processing: hematite magnetite bauxite chalcopyrite. Extractive and secondary manufacturing methods - such as refining, roasting, smelting, steel making and leaching - result in chemicals that are not defined as naturally occurring.

Please note; finished products such as fibre board, glass, pressed wood, cement board are defined as articles. You don’t need to register with us if you are importing these products.

Read about introductions that don't require registration or categorisation

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