Cleaning up organic label claims
Consumers Union Urges FTC to Stop Deceptive Organic Labeling of Personal Care Products
Consumers Union and the Organic Consumers Association filed a petition in March 2010 with the Federal Trade Commission to put an end to misleading practices of several "organic" personal care brands that do not comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program.
For many years, makers of widely used cosmetics and other personal care products have taken advantage of a loophole in labeling rules that allows them to use the term "organic" on their product labels when in fact they do not have to meet the same government standards that are required for other organic labels on foods, dairy products, meats, and beverages.
Some companies confuse the issue further by including the word "organic" in their brand name, even when there are no organic ingredients at all, like Organic Bite Blocker Xtreme, which merely contains various oils, water, glycerin, citric acid, lecithin, and sodium bicarbonate. This too is perfectly legal, but can be very confusing for consumers.
The loopholes permit these companies to make organic claims without meeting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's standards. Consumers Union believes these labels can mislead consumers looking to buy products they view as healthier or better for the environment.
Strong Action Needed to Enforce Organic Standards
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Standards Board currently enforces strict standards for the labeling of organic food, it does not adequately regulate or enforce organic regulations with respect to personal care products.
Last year, the Board formally recommended that the National Organic Program regulate personal care products to ensure that any use of the word "organic" is backed up by third-party certification to USDA organic standards.
What You Can Do
Look for the USDA Organic certification seal. That means the product meets all the standards which specify that just 5 percent or less of the product can contain synthetics, and they must be on the government's approved list.
For other products without the seal, until there are much stronger organic labeling standards for personal care products you should carefully check ingredients lists. Be on the lookout for the number of nonorganic ingredients and the word "fragrance," which might indicate the product contains phthalates, a family of chemicals often found in fragrances that might pose health risks.
Personal care products include baby care products, bath, shower, shampoos and soaps, deodorants and antiperspirants, skin lotions, and sun care products.
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