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US, stricter controls are called on organic personal care products

On November 5, 2009, the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a recommendation for "solving the problem of mislabeled organic personal care products." The recommendation urges the US Department for Agriculture National Organic Program (NOP) to make sure that any use of the word "organic" on a personal care product is backed up by third-party certification to USDA organic standards.

Currently, as the recommendation describes, "at a given retailer, one may find personal care products such as shampoos and lotions labeled as 'organic' with no clear standards or regulatory underpinning for the organic claim - and unless the product is specifically labeled as 'USDA Organic,' the word 'organic' may be used with impunity. Manufacturers of personal care products that contain organic ingredients are hindered by a thicket of competing private standards and confusion regarding the applicability of the NOP to their products. Transactions lack the regulatory clarity that applies under the NOP to food products that contain organic ingredients."

"I'm really pleased by the NOSB's recommendation," said to Reuters Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), that strongly pushed for measures to be underataken. "Brands that are using the word organic improperly should be on notice that USDA enforcement is imminent. Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has said that she is going to get 'tough on crime' in the organic industry. At the NOSB meeting this week, National Organic Program director Miles McEvoy announced a 'new age of enforcement' in organic. I expect them to make organic cosmetics fraud a top priority. In the meantime, retailers should start cleaning up their body care aisles. Whole Foods Market, for one, was a big supporter of the NOSB recommendation."

The OCA is backing up its grassroots lobbying with market pressure in the form of a consumer boycott of cheater brands and a "buy-cott" of (promotion of and support for) brands that are certified organic. However, before OCA launched the boycott of brands that are falsely marketing themselves as organic, it gave producers an opportunity to come clean, the Association stresses. Beginning September 24, 2009, at the Natural Products Expo East in Boston, OCA met with personal care products companies engaged in organic fraud and urged them to sign a contract making a pledge to consumers that they will either meet organic standards or stop making false organic claims.

To view the Certification Commitment Contract; the NOSB Recommendation or for further information on the Coming Clean Campaign, go to: http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/index.cfm

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