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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stop Organic Body Care Fraud

PRESS RELEASE: Buycott Certified Organic Products and Boycott the Cheaters

ACTION ALERT: Stop Organic Body Care Fraud

This November, the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will consider a recommendation for "Solving the Problem of Mislabeled Organic Personal Care Products." The recommendation urges the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to make sure that any use of the word "organic" on a personal care product is backed up by third-party certification to USDA organic standards.

Currently, as the recommendation describes, "at a given retailer, one may find personal care products such as shampoos and lotions labeled as 'organic' with no clear standards or regulatory underpinning for the organic claim - and unless the product is specifically labeled as 'USDA Organic,' the word 'organic' may be used with impunity. Manufacturers of personal care products that contain organic ingredients are hindered by a thicket of competing private standards and confusion regarding the applicability of the NOP to their products. Transactions lack the regulatory clarity that applies under the NOP to food products that contain organic ingredients."

The Organic Consumers Association sees this recommendation as a preliminary victory for its Coming Clean campaign to rid store shelves of products that are falsely advertised as "organic." The USDA has long resisted policing the market for organic personal care products. Even President Obama's USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, an advocate for organic agriculture, has expressed reluctance. In response to an OCA letter-writing campaign urging her to go after personal care products that are falsely advertised as organic she wrote, "The USDA regulates organic personal care products only if they are made up of agricultural ingredients. We have no standards for personal care products and have no plans to develop standards at this time."

Her statement is at once confusing and disappointing. Organic personal care products that are made up of agricultural ingredients are the ones that are most likely to be genuine USDA-certified products. It's the personal care products that are made from synthetic, petroleum-based ingredients that are falsely advertised as "organic" that we need her to regulate.

Furthermore, OCA doesn't want the USDA to create standards for organic personal care products. We just want them to enforce the current agricultural standards in personal care, like they do when conventional foods are mislabeled as organic.

If the USDA delays enforcement of organic standards in personal care, the OCA will be forced to back up its grassroots lobbying with market pressure in the form of a boycott of "cheater brands" and a "buycott" or promotion of brands that are genuinely organic. Before OCA launches a boycott of brands that are falsely marketing themselves as organic, it will give producers an opportunity to come clean. Beginning September 24, 2009, at the Natural Products Expo East in Boston, OCA will meet with personal care products companies engaged in organic fraud to urge them to sign a contract making a pledge to consumers that they will either meet organic standards or stop making false organic claims.

The Organic Consumers Association expects a long fight for USDA enforcement of organic standards in personal care. The first step is getting the NOSB to adopt the recommendation for "Solving the Problem of Mislabeled Organic Personal Care Products." The deadline for sending public comments to the NOSB in advance of their November 3-5 meeting is October 19, 2009. Please take action today.

Campaigning for Organic Integrity in Bodycare Products
The Organic Consumers Association's "Coming Clean Campaign" has been working to clean up the 'natural' and 'organic' personal care industry since 2004. Unlike organic foods, many personal care products are falsely labeled as "organic".

OCA's Coming Clean Campaign is focused on cleaning up the organic personal care industry by ridding of fraudulent labeling that is misleading consumers. The OCA believes that organic bodycare standards should mirror organic food standard.

This means that:

  • Comming Clean LogoCertified organic agricultural feedstocks are utilized in the manufacture of the key basic cleansing and conditioning ingredients, versus petroleum or conventional feedstocks.
  • Manufacture of such ingredients is ecological.
  • The toxicity of each ingredient is minimal
  • Non-agricultural water is not counted in any shape or form as contributing to organic content.

Over 600 organic businesses have signed on to support this campaign (see a list of supporting businesses here or sign your business on to be a supporter here).

If you are a personal care producer or retailer and would like to support OCA's Coming Clean Campaign, click here.

The word "organic" is not properly regulated on personal care products (example: toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc.) as it is on food products, unless the product is certified by the USDA National Organic Program.

Checking a Shampoo LabelDue to this lax regulation, many personal care products have the word "organic" in their brand name or otherwise on their product label, but unless they are USDA certified, the main cleansing ingredients and preservatives are usually made with synthetic and petrochemical compounds.

This is why the Organic Consumers Association recommends consumers look for the USDA organic seal on personal care products that claim to be organic. Although there are multiple "organic" standards all around the world, each with its own varying criteria, the USDA Organic Standards are the "gold standard" for personal care products.

If you are looking to purchase a product that is totally organic, look for the USDA organic seal. If it doesn't have the seal, read the ingredient label to find out how many ingredients are truly organic and how many are synthetic.

Identifying Toxic Contamination in Personal Care Products

Stop Bogus "Organic" Misbranding or Certification

To help remove some of this misleading organic labeling from the market, in late March 2008, the OCA and Dr. Bronner's filed Cease and Desist Letters to many of the bogus "organic" brands who utilize conventional and/or petrochemical material instead of organic material in making their main cleansing ingredients, some of whom even tested positive for the carcinogen 1,4-Dioxane in this study. Read the press release here and the Cease and Desist letter here.

USDA Organic SealMany companies misbrand "Organics" on their labels but consumers should look for products certified under the USDA (see recommended list here), because there are other weak so-called "organic" standards that a product can become "certified" under, which do not allow ethoxylation and 1,4-Dioxane, but allow hydrogenation and sulfation of conventional, not organic material, to make cleansing ingredients preserved with synthetic preservatives.

Two of these weak standards consumers should look out for are the Ecocert and OASIS standards; Ecocert actually allows certain petrochemicals in cleansing ingredients.

Learn more here.

Surveys clearly indicate that when a product labels itself as "Organic" or is sold by a company with the word "Organic" in its brand name, consumers are willing to pay extra, because they believe that product does not contain cleansing ingredients made with conventional and/or petrochemical material, that may be contaminated with carcinogenic compounds like 1,4-Dioxane.

See survey results here.

sourced from Consumer Organic Association, www.organicconsumers.org

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