RODALE NEWS, ANAHEIM, CA—Outside of the Anaheim Convention Center last week during Natural Products Expo West, a parade of protesting people tucked behind life-sized shampoo bottle cutouts sent a clear message to greenwashing companies, and to the thousands of retail buyers entering the center: Clean up organic shampoo's dirty little secret. "Consumers who pay a premium for high-end organic products expect the main cleansing and moisturizing ingredients of a product labeled 'organic' to be made from certified-organic agricultural material produced on organic farms," explains Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Intelligent Nutrients (and founder and previous owner of Aveda). But unlike the tightly regulated organic food industry (where the product really does have to be organic to use the word on its labels), makers of personal-care products are free to slap organic claims on a bottle—or even use it in the company or product name—even if harsh chemicals are used in the formula.
THE DETAILS: The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) organized the protest, and police eventually confiscated their PA system and issued a citation. But OCA isn't just acting on the grassroots level. Along with certified-organic personal-care brands like Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, Intelligent Nutrients, and Organic Essence, the group filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) National Organic Program, requesting action on the widespread and blatantly deceptive labeling practices of leading “organic” personal-care brands. The alliance filed the complaint on behalf of the 50 million consumers of organic products, charging that USDA should regulate the use of organic claims of soaps and cleansers, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizing lotions, lip balms, and cosmetics the same way it does food. In other words, a snack-food company can't call a brand organic unless it's certified through the USDA-organic program. That isn't the case with personal-care items.
The complaint describes products produced by 12 different corporations, including the Hain Celestial Group, Inc.; Kiss My Face Corporation; YSL Beaute, Inc.; Giovanni Cosmetics, Inc.; Cosway Company, Inc.; Country Life, LLC; Szép Élet LLC (makers of Ilike Organic Skin Care); Physicians’ Formula Holdings, Inc. (makers of Organic Wear); Surya Nature, Inc.; Organic Bath Company; and Freeman Beauty Division of pH Beauty Labs, Inc. (makers of Freeman Goodstuff Organics).
Better options: Rodale.com's Leah Zerbe highlights products that are as healthy and natural as they sound.