Natural Foods Merchandiser

The latest on PC certifications

If the development of a U.S. government organic standard for personal care products mirrors the long, arduous process that eventually produced the organic food standard, you can expect to see at least a half-dozen private or industry-sponsored organic PC seals before the feds are able to reach consensus on one, universal standard. Here’s a look at the status of three seals that some industry experts hope are precursors for a national standard for natural or organic personal care products.

Natural Products Association’s Natural Seal
Launched in May 2008, this seal applies to PC products made from at least 95 percent natural ingredients. NPA defines natural ingredients as renewable resources found in nature with no petroleum components.

What’s the latest news on the seal?
According to NPA Vice President of Science and Regulatory Affairs Daniel Fabricant, the first products were certified in September, and as of February, 122 products from six manufacturers—Aubrey Organics, Burt’s Bees, Highland Laboratories, J.R. Watkins Natural Apothecary, S&V Corp. and Yes to Carrots—had qualified for the seal.

What has been the reaction to the seal so far?
PCC Natural Markets, based in Seattle, is requiring its vendors and manufacturers to comply with the standard. “We’re trying to do more education and get more information out to other retailers,” Fabricant says. “A lot of companies that have not had a truly natural line are adapting and reformulating their lines to qualify for the seal.”

What are the future plans for the seal?
Fabricant says NPA will soon add more ingredients to its list of approved natural substances. It also plans to launch a natural seal for home care items sometime this year.

OASIS’ organic and “made with organic” standards are scheduled to be finalized in March or April 2009. Until January 2010, products with at least 85 percent organic ingredients can qualify for the organic seal. That number will increase to 90 percent in 2011 and 95 percent in 2012. Products with at least 70 percent organic ingredients could qualify for the “made with organic” seal.

What’s the latest news on the seals?
OASIS’ 30-plus founding member companies are trying to push the U.S. National Organic Program into reciprocity with the European Union’s organic PC standards, which have more leeway in terms of cosmetics chemistry processes, says OASIS Chairwoman Gay Timmons. OASIS also recently set up a discussion forum on its website.

What has been the reaction to the seal so far?
Although OASIS bills itself as an “industry consensus” standard, last April, Escondido-Calif.-based Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps filed a lawsuit against OASIS and other companies for allegedly misusing the term organic. Trial dates are pending. OASIS’ defense is that the use of organic is a First Amendment right, Timmons says.

What are the future plans for the seal?
OASIS will continue to improve the PC standard and is also working on a sustainable-packaging standard that could be available within the next year, Timmons says.

NSF International’s Made With Organic Personal Care Products Seal
NSF released the logo for its new standard in March at Natural Products Expo West. The standard not only defines organic PC ingredients, but also approves processes like saponification, transesterification and hydrolysis that can produce soaps, waxes and essential oils that aren’t approved under the NOP. Products must be at least 70 percent organic to qualify for the standard.

What’s the latest news on the seal?
In February, the seal was adopted by the American National Standards Institute. ANSI is considered the premier watchdog organization for nongovernmental standards in the U.S.

Because the NSF seal is ANSI-approved, products that bear the seal should have a “competitive advantage,” says NSF spokeswoman Greta Houlahan.

What are the future plans for the seal?
“If, down the road, the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] or NOP decides to engage organic personal care products, [government regulations] would encourage them to rely on the consensus national standard,” which is the NSF/ANSI seal, Houlahan says. For more information, go to

Need more PC know-how? Visit NFM's Personal Care Guide.

Vicky Uhland is a Lafayette, Colo.-based freelance writer and editor.

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