Friday, April 04, 2008

What's the Scoop on Organic Labeling & Marketing

Organic, Organic, Organic

Everywhere we turn there’s some kind of "organic" product being marketed and sold. My local grocery store stocks several aisles of organic product, not to mention a whole fruit and produce section. Organic products are not just limited to food stuff. Lately there has been a myriad of cosmetic and toiletry companies introducing "organic lines". So what does this mean to you, the consumer? What exactly is organic and does it differ from certified organic?

First, it is important to understand that there is no agency or governmental branch that regulates a "Certified Organic" product. Currently the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) works from a Food Industry list that includes food products deemed safe as certified organic raw materials. It’s called the 205.605 list. That works for the food industry, but many of the items on the list are not choices for the toiletry or soap industry. The word "organic" is not properly regulated on personal care products as it is on food products.

By law, you must go through a third party company that has been commissioned by the USDA to certify your product as certified organic. So even if a certified organic lab creates your product, in order to carry the seal, you must involve an independent party to certify your product. It is costly and at this point in time, does not mean any more than following USDA guidelines. This is why you almost never see a product with the actual certified organic seal.

Currently, if your product contains 70% certified organic ingredients, you can legally call it an organic product. This does not mean the product carries a “Certified Organic” seal, it only means that the product contains 70% certified organic ingredients. To carry the Certified Organic seal the product would still need to go through a USDA approved independent for certification approval.

Sadly because of such lax regulation, many personal care products have the word "organic" in their brand name or otherwise on their product label. However, unless these products are USDA certified, the main cleansing ingredients in particular are usually made with conventional not agricultural material, combined with petrochemical compounds.

For now, "organic" means whatever manufacturers say it does and may fall short of the promises implied by the label. There are people working to organize this industry to have agreed upon standards to carry the organic seal, but they do not yet exist, so everybody is working off of the 70% organic standard. This means that 70% of the ingredients in formulas are Certified Organic raw ingredients. Again, this does not mean that the formula is Certified Organic. It does mean that it is an Organic Product.

Presently, as of January 2008, the NSF organization is working to define organic labeling and marketing requirements for organic personal care products. They are working for standards in materials, processes, production criteria and conditions to be met in order for the organic label and marketing claims to appear on products.

NSF is an independent, not-for-profit organization that develops standards that are accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the voluntary standardization and conformity assessment systems.
You can have a voice in this whole organic debate. Visit the following link and sign the “Coming Clean Petition’ to pressure the Organic Trade Association and USDA’s National Organic Program not to codify or implement extremely weak standards for organic cosmetics

You will find additional information about Organic Regulations, product and safety information at:

Organic Trade Association

NSF Organization

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