Natural Foods Merchandiser

Personal care labels sell confidence in Europe

Organic certification has come a long way in the United States. Laws now govern organic production, and the Organic Trade Association even has textile standards. But for at least seven years, the Greenfield, Mass.-based OTA—and now Ann Arbor, Mich.-based NSF International—have struggled to reach agreement on an organic personal care standard. Companies can certify personal care products vegan or cruelty-free, but an organic standard remains elusive.

Meanwhile, in Europe, a slew of personal care labels has been blossoming—and is being noticed by consumers.

Germany, Italy, France and England all have standards—some required, some voluntary—that dictate organic and natural personal care. However, there is no pan-European legal standard for organic or natural personal care. And, as Gay Timmons, founder and president of Oh, Oh Organic in Los Gatos, Calif., and an organic certifier, says, "Right now we have a worldwide disaster" when it comes to all the different standards—including the impending U.S. version.

That makes things difficult for manufacturers wanting to go overseas, says Erk Schuchhardt, chief executive officer and president of Weleda Inc. USA, a company that offers European organic body care products and homeopathic medications. "When a company gets to a certain size, they say, 'What do we do next? Let's go to Europe.' They get bored and go to Europe," he says with a laugh. But they then face the problem of which standard to use. And, he notes, a further dilemma looms. "The difference is that while the United States is one domestic market of 300 million, in Europe it's all one economic or political entity, but not one market entity."

Back in the United States, what many consumers don't understand is that the cosmetic industry is self-regulated, Timmons says, while the food industry has a rigorous set of standards. "You can only call juice juice if it meets the law, but that's not true in cosmetics." And while writing personal care standards is a difficult process, she says, "It is in the best interest that we work together and come to a consensus." Timmons says that consensus should put agriculture first, as the European model generally does. "First, we have to get as many agricultural materials into these products as we can," she says. "And, when we have [a] big enough market, the technical requirements [of cosmetic processes] will be met." Further, she says, we must have a robust market to drive innovation in the natural and organic cosmetic world. "Food doesn't need technical development, cosmetics do," she says.

For his part, Schuchhardt says he can't see there will ever be a cosmetic law in the United States or Europe. He says Europe won't touch the issue because it would have to regulate it. Schuchhardt says the standard must be set from the nongovernmental side and it must create transparency. "It's the only way to create consumer confidence," he says.

European personal care labels

BDIH is the Federation of German Industries and Trading Firms for pharmaceuticals, health-care goods, dietary supplements and personal-hygiene products. The Mannheim, Germany-based association represents more than 300 producers and distributors. The association's "Certified Natural Cosmetics" seal, around since 1996, is granted after third-party testing. Criteria include: Use of plant ingredients whenever possible; no animal testing conducted or outsourced to another company; synthetic coloring agents and fragrances, ethoxylated ingredients, silicones, paraffin and other petroleum products.

The association also encourages using fair trade ingredients and support?ing Third World projects, as well as the responsible use and disposal of all material. For more information, visit

Ecocert is a L'Isle Jourdain, France-based certification organization. It works "to promote actions revolving around the environment and sustainable development," according to Ecocert's Web site. Through its Ecological and Organic Cosmetics standards, Ecocert guarantees "the genuine practice of environmental respect throughout the production line, respect for the consumer and the promotion of natural substances of a superior ecological quality," the Web site says. Ecocert audits finished products for ingredients, processes and packaging used, supplier commitment regarding raw materials delivered, and inspection of labeling. It also checks many manufacturing processes including energy and waste management, transportation and storage. The Ecocert license certifies both "Ecological Cosmetics" and "Ecological and Organic Cosmetics." For more information, visit

Soil Association
Founded in 1946 by a group of farmers, scientists and nutritionists, the Bristol, England-based Soil Association has been certifying organic food since the 1970s, and health and beauty products since 2002. The SA's organic health and beauty care standards were developed over three years and are based on the Nordic standards, European Commission cosmetics directive and regulation 2092/91, which governs organic food production and food processing. The SA health and beauty standards committee meets regularly to update the standards as new technology becomes available. Organic products must have a minimum of 95 percent organic agricultural ingredients. Products labeled 'made with X percent organic ingredients' must contain between 70 to 95 percent certified organic

ingredients. Petrochemicals are not permitted. For more information, visit


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Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 6/p.54-56

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