USDA asked to crack down on use of 'organic' for non-certified cosmetics

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

The USDA has been called upon to get tough on the misuse of the term ‘organic’ in personal care and cosmetics products.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a government appointed panel that attempts to find a consensus within the organic community to inform regulatory decisions, has voted for a crackdown on the cosmetics industry’s use of ‘organic’.

Organic and natural personal care products are increasing in popularity, which has resulted in an explosion of ‘organic’ products hitting the marketplace.

According to the Organic Consumers Association, a significant proportion of the products using organic in their product title and description are not certified.

Political director to the OCA Alexis Baden-Mayer explained how the NOSB were now calling on the USDA’s National Organic Program to enforce the proper use of term organic, just like they do in the food sector.

“Having been significantly under resourced for some time, it has been hard for the National Organic Program to crack down on the misuse of the term organic in this sector,”​ she told CosmeticsDesign.

Tackle misuse of ‘organic’

However, she believes National Organic Program will start tackling misuse as it has received both more resources and a serious message from the NOSB.

A crackdown of this sort would result in a company acting illegally if it used the word organic without USDA certification.

Not only does this have significant consequences for personal care manufacturers it could also ring the death knoll for other standards bodies that are competing with the USDA to certify the sector.

Under NOSB proposals only the USDA organic certification would be recognized; certifying a product to one of the competing standards such as the NSF’s ‘Made With Organic’ standard or the Oasis standard, would not allow the company to use the term ‘organic’.

However, Baden-Mayer does not expect too much opposition from these bodies.

“In the US the competing standards haven’t taken off as they have in Europe. Competing standards remain marginal and consumers really only recognise the USDA’s organic seal,”​ she said.

The USDA is, of course, not obliged to take this message on board however the Organic Consumers Association remains optimistic.

NOSB is an influential organisation representing views of those working in the organic sector as well as consumers and feeling is strong, argued Baden-Meyer.

However, she said the new NOP deputy administrator Miles McEvoy who had been present at the NOSB’s meeting said the body would look into it, although it would not be a top ten priority.

In the meantime, Organic Consumers Association has announced a boycott on brands which have been ‘cheating consumers’ by misusing the term organic including Organics by Noah’s Naturals, Nature’s Gate Organics, Amazon Organics and Avalon Organics.

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