(Beyond Pesticides, June 14, 2010) Whole Foods Market is setting a good example for other retailers to follow in protecting consumers from fraudulent “organic” claims on health and beauty products. The national grocery retailer of natural and organic products announced earlier this month that all cosmetic and personal care products sold at their stores with the word “organic” on the product label must comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) or NSF 305 standards, meaning that the product must be third-party certified to USDA organic standards or front label “organic” claims must cease, according to the Organic Consumers Association.
Thought the term “organic” on all products, whether for food or non-food items, meant that it was certified? That’s the law, but sometimes not the reality. The reality is that the USDA’s NOP requires certification for all “organic” claims on food products, but does not currently have similar certification requirements in place for non-food items.
The new Whole Foods Market policy states, “We believe that the ‘organic’ claim used on personal care products should have very similar meaning to the ‘organic’ claim used on food products, which is currently regulated by the USDA’s National Organic Program. Our shoppers do not expect the definition of ‘organic’ to change substantially between the food and the non-food aisles of our stores.”
Their policy covers products such as liquid soaps, body washes, facial cleansers, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizing lotions, lip balms, make-up and other cosmetic products, not only includes statements about ingredients but also those products with “organic” in their brand name.
Organic Consumers Association is asking Trader Joes, National Coop Grocers Association, and other natural foods retailers to follow Whole Foods Market’s lead.
The official company policy, which is posted on the Organic Consumer Associations’ website, states that all products must be in compliance by June 1, 2011. All suppliers are asked to submit their plans on complying with this new policy to Whole Foods Market by August 1, 2010.
The policy lists specific examples for compliance:
”¢ Products making an “Organic” product claim: Must be certified to the USDA’s NOP standard for organic (95%) products. Documentation required: Suppliers must present an organic certificate, issued by a USDA-accredited certifier and showing certification to the NOP standard. The certificate must name the specific products being evaluated.
”¢ Products making a “Made with Organic ________” claim: Certification requirement: Must be certified to the USDA’s NOP standard for Made With Organic (70%) products. Documentation required: Suppliers must present an organic certificate, issued by a USDA-accredited certifier and showing certification to the NOP standard. The certificate must name the specific products being evaluated.
”¢ Products making a “Contains Organic _______” claim: Certification requirement: Must be certified to the NSF/ANSI 305 Organic Personal Care Standard. Documentation required: Suppliers must present certification documentation demonstrating current compliance with the NSF/ANSI 305 standard.
”¢ Products listing an organic ingredient in the “Ingredients:” listing: Certification requirement: Organic ingredient must be certified to the USDA NOP standard. Documentation required: Suppliers must present an organic certificate, issued by a USDA-accredited certifier and showing certification to the NOP standard. The certificate(s) must name the specific ingredient(s) being evaluated.
According to the Organic Consumers Association, the following personal care products make false “organic” claims: These include “Nature’s Gate Organics,” “Kiss My Face” with its “Certified Organic Botanicals” seal, “Organic Fiji” with its “Rated O Organic” trademark, “Derma E” with its “Natural & Organic Skincare Solutions” seal, “Nubian Heritage” with its “Certified Organic Ingredients” seal, “Surya Brazil Sapien” with EcoCert’s “Organic Cosmetic” seal (Surya has pledged to stop making front-label organic claims), “Pangea Organics,” “Lafes Natural and Organic,” “South of France Organics,” “Avalon Organics,” “Natralia Baby Organic,” “John Masters Organics,” “Organique,” “Jason: Pure, Natural & Organic” (Jason has pledged to stop making front-label organic claims), “Peaceful Mountain” which advertises “organic and wildcrafted herbs,” “Organic Grooming,” “Earth’s Best Organic,” “Giovanni Organic Hair Care,” “Peter Rabbit Organics,” “Aubrey Organics” and “Rainbow Organic Herbal.”
The Organic Consumers’ Association believes that the USDA should first require certification for organic claims and then have the personal care products’ industry petition the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) for ingredients and processes needed in their products on a case-by-case basis.
In January 2010, the Organic Consumers Association, along with certified organic personal care brands Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Intelligent Nutrients, and Organic Essence, filed a complaint with the USDA NOP, seeking action to stop some personal care manufacturers from, according to the petitioners, mislabeling their products as “organic.”
Back in November 2009, the NOSB formally recommended that the NOP regulate personal care to ensure that any use of the word “organic” on a personal care product is backed up by third-party certification to USDA organic standards.
Beyond Pesticides a member of the National Organic Coalition (NOC), and last year Jay Feldman, director of Beyond Pesticides, was appointed to the National Organic Standards Board to a five-year term. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Instead of using these harmful products and practices, organic agriculture utilizes techniques such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and composting to produce healthy soil, prevent pest and disease problems, and grow healthy food and fiber.
Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. For more information on organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Program page.
For more information on the Organic Consumers’ Association’s Coming Clean campaign, go to: www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare.