Natural Foods Merchandiser

OTA Moves Forward With Personal Care Standards

Armed with new information about hydrosols, the Organic Trade Association?s Personal Care Task Force revisited the controversial issue as it continued its quest to craft organic standards.

The task force approved a motion put forth by Curt Valva, general manager of Aubrey Organics of Tampa, Fla., to ?exclude the added-water portion of hydrosols from organic percentage calculations,? adding that ?Until the added water contribution in a hydrosol is clearly identified and calculated, the ingredient is to be excluded in its entirety from organic calculations.?

?As long as the issue was there we weren?t able to move forward,? Valva said.

The March 6 meeting at Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., was the first since OTA President and Task Force Chair Phil Margolis declared null an earlier vote taken on hydrosols because it was based on misinformation. It was also the first since Rutgers University reported that the lavender hydrosol it studied was 71 percent water.

Other topics included an allowable-preservatives list and possibilities for organic soap labeling. Margolis, who is hopeful the task force can complete its work before Natural Products Expo East 2005, believes that although the meeting was productive, some large issues still need to be ironed out. ?Personal care products are different entities than food products, just like fiber is different. Fiber standards are driven largely by environmental protocols. I don?t know if we?ve figured out exactly what the standards [for personal care] are driven by completely.?

Tim Schaeffer, brand manager for Avalon Natural Products of Petaluma, Calif.—which uses hydrosols in some products—said that his company is committed to organics. ?The goal of having a strong standard supercedes any vote,? he said. He also noted that in the short term the vote will have no effect on Avalon?s formulation or marketing. ?At that point in time when everything?s together and all the information is in, then if a change is required, absolutely we?ll do what?s necessary.?

Work on an approved-preservatives list was begun and then tabled until the OTA?s May trade show. Organic inspector Gay Timmons, owner of Oh, Oh Organics, believes the materials list is where much of the work is happening. ?It?s always about materials and the processing of those materials,? she said. ?Actually, the standards for the ingredients that go into personal care products are much more rigorous for micro-organisms than food.?

The soap issue was raised by Cyndi Norman of Tikvah, a Petaluma, Calif., personal care company. According to her proposal, the possibility of a fully organic soap is limited by soap?s active ingredient—lye. Large-scale production of sustainable organic lye is, at this time, impossible, said Norman. The percentage of lye in soap, while within ?made with? organic-labeling percentages, does not meet National Organic Program standards for the organic label. David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner?s Magic Soaps of Escondido, Calif., thinks that there are ways to work through the soap issue: ?My personal feeling is that [lye] can be neutral in soap making.? In the meantime, he?s satisfied with a ?made with? organic claim.

As the process continues, something that Timmons feels could take 10 years, the picture of organic personal care will continue to solidify. ?It?s about clarity,? Timmons said. ?And the retailers have a role in that as well, in giving feedback to manufacturers and in giving information to the consumers.?

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 4/p. 1

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