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Whole Foods cracks down on organic personal care

Earlier this month, Whole Foods Market announced that as of June 1, 2011, all organic personal care products sold in the company’s U.S. stores will have to be certified organic.

What does this mean?

Any product claiming to be “organic” or “made with organic ____” must be certified to the USDA National Organic Program standard, just like food.

Easy? Not so much. The product, be it a shampoo or lotion or sunscreen, must pretty much be edible to meet this standard.


As of now, only a handful of companies—off the top of my head, I can think of Terressentials, a few lines by Dr. Bronner’s and some hair-care items by Aubrey Organics—offer USDA certified organic personal care products. A lot more claim to be organic, however.

I applaud Whole Foods for setting a high bar for organic products throughout the store.

But I find Whole Foods’ new guidelines confusing on one level. The company will allow products making the claim “contains organic ____” (not to be mistaken for “made with organic ___”) to be certified to the NSF 305 Personal Care Standard. This standard is less strict than the USDA NOP standard, allowing a small number of substances and processes not allowed under the NOP.

I don’t necessarily dislike the NSF 305 standard; in fact, it may well be appropriate for organic personal care. Yet, without bolstering customer education in the HABA aisles, I’m not sure shoppers will really get the difference between “organic,” “made with organic ____,” and “contains organic ____.” Thus, the confusion will continue.

Also, what happens to products from manufacturers that use the word "organic" in the company name yet don't conform to Whole Foods' new policy? Will they be shown the exit?

In light of Whole Foods bold move, will you change your organic personal care policies? What is your current standard and how might it change?

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