USDA sued over withdrawal of organic certification

Related tags Dr. bronner Organic food Usda

The Organic Consumers Association and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps are
suing the USDA over its decision to stop certifying personal care
and non-food items. After significant industry investment to comply
with the program, the industry now says that consumers now have no
clear way of discerning organic cosmetic products, reports Simon

The OCA and Dr. Bronner's have filed a joint federal lawsuit less than two weeks after the USDA confirmed they were starting moves towards disallowing the National Organic Program for non-food products.

According to the OCA, the new policy will come into effect on October 21, 2005, unless injunctive relief is granted by the court. The lawsuit,​ has been filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

The USDA created the 'USDA Organic' seal in 2002 as a means of clearly identifying organic consumer products. The certification was primarily aimed at food and drinks manufacturers, but the USDA also encouraged cosmetic and personal care producers, as well as pet food, textile and fish manufacturers to join the program.

David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps​, said that his company has invested some $100,000 to comply with the certification process, enabling his soaps and lip balms to carry the seal.

He says that many organic ingredients cost double the price of their non-organic counterparts and that the organic seal was a means of justifying this price variation.

Now the means of validating the organic process is lost he says that "the rug has been pulled from under our feet."

The complaint against the USDA's decision forms part of the OCA's Coming Clean Campaign - which has the support of more than 300 businesses. "It is our responsibility to fight the USDA's illegal policy which discourages organic farming, wipes out millions of dollars in investment in certified organic non-food products and violates basic rule making procedures in the Administrative Procedures Act,"​ said Ronnie Cummins, OCA founder and national director.

"If qualifying brands are blocked from labeling and marketing their NOP certified compliant products and displaying the USDA organic seal, consumers will be unable to distinguish such NOP compliant products from packaging and marketing of companies touting 'organic' claims on non-NOP compliant products with little organic content and/or contain synthetic ingredients not allowed in products to NOP standards,"​ he added.

Current data indicates that the USDA's decision on certification does not reflect the growing importance of the market for organic personal care cosmetic products. A report by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR​, entitled the US Market for Natural Personal Care Products, found that the natural/organic skincare, haircare and cosmetics market is expanding significantly and is expected to reach $5.8 billion by 2008, from about $3.9 billion in 2003. That means that the average annual growth for the period will be at least nine per cent.

Further to these figures, the latest findings from Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD)​ show huge increases in both organic and all natural non-food products.

During 2002 just 350 new organic non-food products were launched world-wide, but by 2004 the rate of annual new introductions had increased dramatically. Indeed, some 840 new products were introduced during that year alone, almost double the number launched in 2002, Mintel reports.

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