Over the last few years the market for natural and organic personal care products has rapidly grown worldwide. While the term "natural" is not regulated the term "organic" can or should be used only if the product has been certified by an authorized certification program. In the US there are several certification programs available: the ANSI 305 established by the NSF, the National Organic Program (NOP) established by the USDA (US Dept. of Agriculture) and the OASIS (Organic and Sustainable Industry Standards) program established by the cosmetic industry.
NSF/ANSI 305: Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients
NSF International has published a new American National Standard for personal care products containing organic ingredients. The American National Standard was developed in accordance with the requirements set forth by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system. ANSI standards are developed based on the principles of due-process, participation and consensus. NSF/ANSI 305 was developed through involvement of those who are directly and materially affected by the scope of the standard.
NSF/ANSI 305 defines labeling and marketing requirements for personal care products that contains organic ingredients. The voluntary standard allows the “contains organic ingredients” designation for products with organic content of 70 percent (O70) or more that comply with all other requirements of the standard. To consider the intricacies of personal care product formulations and eliminate consumer confusion, the NSF standard is designed only for “contains organic ingredients” claims and allows for limited chemical processes that are typical for personal care products but would not be allowed for food products. NSF/ANSI 305 also requires companies to state the exact percentage of organic content based on the requirements of the standard.
USDA's National Organic Program
The National Organic Program (NOP) is the federal regulatory framework governing organic food. It was made law in October 2002 and is administered by USDA. The Organic Food Production Act of 1990 required that the USDA develop national standards for organic products. The NOP covers in detail all aspects of food production, processing, delivery and retail sale. Unlike organic foods and beverages, USDA has not created specific organic standards for formulating and labeling personal care products that contain organic ingredients.
If a personal care product contains or is made up of agricultural ingredients, and can meet the USDA/NOP organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards, it may be eligible to be certified under the NOP regulations. Further, the operations which produce the organic agricultural ingredients, the handlers of these agricultural ingredients, and the manufacturer of the final product must all be certified by a USDA-accredited organic certifying agent.
Organic Labeling Categories:
- 100 percent organic: Product must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients. Products may display the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
- Organic: Product must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List or non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form, also on the National List. Products may display the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
- Made with more than 70% organic ingredients: Products contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients and product label can list up to three of the organic ingredients or “food” groups on the principal display panel. For example, body lotion made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) and only organic herbs may be labeled either “body lotion made with organic lavender, rosemary, and chamomile,” or “body lotion made with organic herbs.” Products may not display the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
- Made with less than 70% organic ingredients: Products cannot use the term “organic” anywhere on the principal display panel. However, they may identify the specific ingredients that are USDA-certified as being organically produced on the ingredients statement on the information panel. Products may not display the USDA Organic Seal and may not display a certifying agent’s name and address. Water and salt are also excluded here.
Organic Consumers Association
In 2004 the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has launched a campaign (Coming Clean Campaign) with the aim to clean up the "organic" cosmetics industry. The goal of Coming Clean is to eliminate products that are falsely labeled as "organic" and limit organic claims to personal care products that are certified to USDA organic standards.
So far, OCA has been very proactive in this matter initiating and supporting complaints, boycotts, and even lawsuits against cosmetics manufacturers which used the term "organic" on the labels without USDA certification. As a consequence, retailers are now increasingly unwilling to sell non-certified organic personal care products.
For example, Whole Foods' new policy mandates that "organic" or "made with organic ingredients " claims must be certified under the USDA National Organic Program, just like food. A more limited "Contains Organic Ingredients" claim for personal care may be certified under the NSF ANSI 305 standard. Organic claims that are not certified, including "organics" in branding, will no longer be accepted for sale.
Organic Certification in Other Countries
Ecocert is a private organization that has established standards for natural and organic cosmetics. The standards define a quality level superior to the one defined by the French and European legislation on cosmetic products and will safeguard a real enhanced value of the natural substances. The standard also defines the practice of the respect of the environment throughout the production process (ECOCERT Standards for Natural and Organic Cosmetics)
In 1996, BDIH (Association of German Industrial & Trade Firms) developed comprehensive guidelines for certified natural cosmetics. The "Certified Natural Cosmetics" seal confirms the use of natural raw material such as plant oils, fats and waxes, herbal extracts and essential oils and aromatic materials. They must be obtained from controlled biological cultivation or controlled biological wild collection (BDIH Guidelines for Certified Natural Cosmetics)
Soil Association (UK):
The standards for organic beauty products are based on the food standards. This means if an ingredient is available organically, it must be used. The remaining ingredients must meet strict criteria to ensure that they are not damaging to the health or the environment. Soil Association approves products formulas and labels and inspects the manufacturing facility annually (SA Health and Beauty Standards).
In Canada natural and organic certification uses the IOS Cosmetics Standard established by Certech, a privately owned company. A minimum of 95% of the ingredients must be of natural origin. Products that obtain certification as organic must also use certified organic ingredients. Packaging must be recyclable and the products and their individual ingredients must not have been tested on animals, must be virtually free of synthetic ingredients, and must not contain pesticides, harmful preservatives, artificial colors and fragrances (IOS Cosmetics Standard 2008).
Australian Organic (Australia):
The Australian Certified Organic Standard is the rulebook for businesses that are certified organic with Australian Organic’s certifying arm, Australian Certified Organic. As one of the strictest standards in Australia, the Australian Certified Organic Standard brings together the requirements of national and international relevant standards so consumers have a simple choice when buying organic produce (Australian Certified Organic Standard).