Regarding the recent NFM article "Organic dilemma: What rules personal care?" [February 2005]: We were disturbed to find that a personal care manufacturer had stated that various synthetic preservatives are permitted by the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] in the [National Organic Program] organic regulations. The manufacturer said specifically, "We've actually been following the standards set up by USDA when the organics rule came out, using their list of acceptable preservatives; grapefruit seed extract, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate and benzyl alcohol." That is an error.
The NOP Final Rule reads as follows:
The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.
Section 205.600 evaluation criteria for allowed and prohibited substances, methods, and ingredients.
The following criteria will be utilized in the evaluation of substances or ingredients for the organic production and handling sections of the National List:
(b) In addition to the criteria set forth in the Act, any synthetic substance used as a processing aid or adjuvant will be evaluated against the following criteria:
(4) The substance's primary use is not as a preservative
Curiously, another NFM article from the Feb. 3 e-newsletter, about the recent Arthur Harvey court decision (Harvey vs. Ann Veneman), stated, "OFPA (Organic Foods Production Act) prohibits synthetic ingredients. ... The court ruled that most of these ingredients would no longer be allowed."
Could it be any clearer? No synthetic preservatives! (And yes: Those substances in the statement above are inescapably synthetic by the current NOP definition.)
It's not necessary to use chemical preservatives to make a product—it's just more difficult and, perhaps, a bit more costly. The thousands of highly successful certified organic food products on the market provide abundant examples of this fact. As formulators and manufacturers of organic (or "organic") body care products, it is our job to find ways to eliminate synthetic chemicals. If a product can't be made without man-made synthetics—preservatives, "fragrance" oils, detergents, etc.—then it is, quite simply, NOT an organic product.
James Hahn and Diana Kaye
Editor's note: The reference to "USDA standards" in the February NFM story was incorrect. Standards have been proposed by the Organic Trade Association's personal care task force, using the ingredients in question.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 3/p. 25