Thursday, July 14, 2011

Organic not Organic

Recently an environmental group has brought lawsuits against cosmetic companies for incorrectly labeling their product as organic since there is a rise in fraudulent claims.  Most have not gained the seal approval from USDA or NSF.  A great thing for consumers, the NSF is taking over the guidelines for certifying cosmetic claims of organic ingredients.

First lets define organic from Websters dictionary:
a (1) : of, relating to, or derived from living organisms <organic evolution>
  (2) : of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides <organic farming> <organic produce>
b (1) : of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds
  (2) : relating to, being, or dealt with by a branch of chemistry concerned with the carbon compounds of living beings and most other carbon compounds
Unfortunately our FDA/USDA are a bit more relaxed on their labeling so you have to know what your are buying.
When buying organic with only the USDA Organic Label on you are not guaranteed 100% organic but anyone of the 3 descriptions below.
  • 100% Organic: exclusively produced using organic methods and contain only organic ingredients
  • Organic: 95% of the ingredients are organic the remaining 5% natural or synthetic
  • Made with Organic: made with 70 to 95% organic ingredients
  • All 3 labeling methods do not allow GMO (genetically modified organisms) or irradiation or sewer sludge...yum sludge
  • Anything less that 70% organic can only list the organic ingredients

Here are some common labels you will run into:

I could not find the company behind this label but it just says organic not 100% organic.

This label can be used to describe ingredients as made in nature but not necessarily certified organic.

NSF is an independent testing program that has incredibly strict guidelines compared to USDA. They will have a label specific for cosmetics and/or personal care products.

The USDA label is the weakest of all allowing anything from 70% to 100% organic to have this label.

I personally look for more than the USDA label to see if there is an independent certification because I unfortunately do not trust the USDA label.  Don't forget any produce that has 9 starting at the beginning of the PLU# means no GMO and is organic (not necessarily 100% organic though).

My take away:
  1. read the label
  2. read the ingredients
  3. look for more than USDA label preferably NSF
  4. remember the number 9 in the PLU#


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