Personal-Care Products, Cosmetics Can No Longer Be Certified Organic by USDA
USDA recently announced that personal-care products and cosmetics no longer will be permitted to carry "USDA Organic" labels, the Washington Post reports (Faler, Washington Post, 6/2). The organic label was created in 2002 to distinguish products as all-natural, nonsynthetic substances grown or made without the use of pesticides, fertilizer, biotechnology or radiation.
Products that initially could be certified organic include food, cosmetics and personal-care items, pet food, dietary supplements, textiles and fish. According to Barbara Robinson, director of USDA's National Organic Program, "The feeling was, if your product was composed of agricultural ingredients, and you thought you could get certified, you were welcome to try" (Quaid, AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/2).
However, Robinson added that USDA does not "have any standards for personal-care or cosmetic products. There is nothing in the law that contemplates extending this to personal-care and cosmetic products. Those commodities are under the jurisdiction of" FDA. Robinson acknowledged that the policy regarding such products was unclear but said the organic label's use was never authorized for personal-care items (Washington Post, 6/2).
The Organic Consumers Association has asked the agency to reconsider removing the seals for personal-care products. Robinson said USDA will not change its policy without instruction from Congress. "This is USDA -- I don't know anything about the cosmetics industry, or toothpaste, or body lotions and hand cream," she said (AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/2).
Some manufacturers are "outraged" by the decision, saying that removing the labels will hurt business and that they have invested large amounts of money to certify their products as organic. "To be legitimately certified and to have them approved under those standards and then say to us, a year later: 'Oops, we've decided that you can't put the seal on personal-care products' is unbelievable to me," Lynn Betz, president of a company that won USDA label approval last year for soaps and lotions, said.
Craig Minowa of the OCA said without the labels "it's hard to differentiate a product that has a few token organic ingredients from one that meets national organic standards" (Washington Post, 6/2).