Natural Foods Merchandiser
Are 'organic' personal care products really organic?

Are 'organic' personal care products really organic?

Our secret shopper asks an unsuspecting employee how organic personal care products with organic in the product name really are.  See the employee's answer and our analysis.   

Each month, NFM’s secret shopper heads incognito into a natural products store with a question. The employee’s answer—and our expert’s evaluation of the response—is reported here. Our aim: to help you improve your store’s customer service.

The store: Small natural foods chain in the West

The question: How organic is this personal care product with organic in the product name?

Store: There are some certified-organic ingredients in the product, but it definitely doesn’t have a lot of organic in it. Unfortunately, there’s no standard to prevent [manufacturers] from using the word organic on their [personal care] products; it’s different than using organic on foods.

NFM: Do you have any certified-organic personal care products?

Store: I’d be happy to show you some other products that are definitely more natural, and you can also look for companies with labels that tell you exactly what percentage of the product is organic.

Response: Melaina Juntti, NFM’s associate managing editor and former health and beauty editor

Overall, this employee has a decent grip on organic personal care. He’s correct that there’s no mandate to prevent companies from using the term organic in brand or product names. Some PC products do meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic standard for food and therefore can display that seal. Additionally, third-party certifier NSF International awards a certified-organic seal to PC that’s made with 70 percent organic content. But currently, there’s nothing—save for retailers ousting unaccredited “organic” PC products from their shelves, like Whole Foods Market is doing—to stop manufacturers from using organic when its products are anything but. 

The employee slips up when he says he can show the shopper “products that are definitely more natural.”  Fabulous, but they’d been discussing organic—not natural—personal care. Although often mistakenly interchanged, the two terms mean very different things, and a product with more natural ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean it has more organic ingredients.    

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