Yeeeeehaaaa! It has been a bumpy ride through what David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, calls the "wild wild west of organic misbranding and labeling." But the horizon may be clearing. Maybe. At this year's Natural Products Expo West, the NSF/ANSI 305 certification, which states that a product must contain 70 percent organic ingredients but that these ingredients may undergo some processes the USDA considers synthetic, emerged from ongoing industry ambiguity. Quality Assurance International, an organic certifier, announced the first personal care products to earn this new label: Earth Momma Angel Baby Angel Baby Lotion, Amala Treatment Oil, Weleda Sea Buckthorn Body Oil, Naturally Nova Scotia New Fresh Oral Rinse, and Trademark Cosmetics (private label).
"NSF Made with Organic is a responsible compromise between purists and industry," says Bronner. You could be a purist if you think earning any organic merit must be in conjunction with the USDA Organic label. In theory, it seems right. But in practice, USDA Organic certification is tremendously difficult for a personal care company to obtain because the product must meet the exact same guidelines as organic food. (Many people have also questioned whether it should be the FDA rather than the USDA doing the certifying). So how is (or simply is) NSF/ANSI 305 helping?
Purchasing a USDA Organic personal care product certainly has its benefits: You know that the product has met the same guidelines as that organic apple you pulled out of the produce aisle. But one walk through your store's personal care department and you'll find that your options are fairly limited. There are some companies (from what I have seen, many of which are rooted in Ayurveda, which has focused on pure ingredients for thousands of years) that are doing this and doing it well, such as Organique by Himalaya, which has gained the USDA certification for about half of its personal care line and is in the process of gaining it for the other half and Aura Cacia, which also offers USDA Organic oils. The USDA Organic label seems to appear primarily on pure esssential oils, as well as lotions with very few ingredients, as opposed to potent anti-aging formulas and cosmetics.
Jaclyn Bowen, QAI general manager, says manufacturers who qualify for the USDA Organic label should still opt for it. Now, however, the game is changing thanks to this NSF/ANSI 305 label I speak of, which could be better suited for companies still using processes common for personal care products, like saponification. Where you'll find it: Only a few companies have earned the label but you will more than likely soon find it on cosmetics products, personal care, and personal hygiene products.