This topic has been hot in the natural personal care industry and both consumers and retailers are speaking out. Whole Foods recently announced that all personal care products and cosmetics making an “organic” claim sold in its U.S. stores must be third-party certified (the Organic Consumers Association's Coming Clean Campaign has been urging such action over the past year). The result? Now you'll know that personal care products claiming to be “organic” must be USDA certified (the same certification for food), those labeled “made with organic ingredients” must also meet this standard, and products claiming “contains organic ingredients” must be certified to the NSF 305 ANSI Standard for Organic Personal Care products. And companies with unregulated organic claims on labels have a year to drop the claim.
According to an OCA release: "In the wake of the BP oil spill, Whole Foods' announcement couldn't come at a better time. Now more than ever, Americans are searching for alternatives to petrochemicals in the body care aisle," says Ronnie Cummins co-founder and Executive Director of OCA. "This is a major victory for people who want to stop washing petrochemicals all over their bodies and down the drain. These consumers want trusted options for real organic personal care. The new Whole Foods policy will force major organic cheater brands to drop organic claims from their branding and labeling." Earlier in the week I posted this Whole Foods quote on Facebook because I wanted to see what consumers had to say and I got some great insights
"We believe that the 'organic' claim used on personal care products should have very similar meaning to the 'organic' claim used on food products, which is currently regulated by the USDA's National Organic Program. Our shoppers do not expect the definition of 'organic' to change substantially between the food and the non-food aisles of our stores" and got some interesting feedback from DL readers and natural products stores consumers.
A DL reader who is just now entering the natural personal care realm responded with the following: "This is a new area for me, just recently looked for a healthy shampoo, but here are my thoughts: I think I like the USDA certification is better. Under the other certification, if a product has 70 percent organic ingredients and then contains something else not so great, like sulphites, to a less aware consumer this would appear a healthy option. While it might be healthier, it might not be what they expect from an organically certified product. Ultimately, I think the consumer should really be responsible for learning what they do or don't want in products and read, read, read those labels." Good point. Another reader agreed that she wanted a clear definition, and that the definition should in fact be the same as organic. "Of course organic should mean the same whether it's food or cosmetics. Lotions and shampoos are particularly problematic for me because some of the "natural," "organic" products still have artificial ingredients to which I am allergic...so, I personally would like more precise definition." My opinion? This is a great move by Whole Foods. If any product, personal care or other, is making a claim, it should have the label to back it up. Curious to hear more about what you think.