DC, August 26, 2005 (ENS): Certified non-food
products, including personal care products such as soaps,
oils, and cosmetics may continue to represent that they
are "organic" or "made with organic,"
ingredients, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
directed in a memo to organic certifiers Wednesday.
The non-food items may display the USDA organic seal,
so long as such products are certified to meet the National
Organic Program (NOP) standards for organic agricultural
products, according to the memo issued by Barbara Robinson,
deputy administrator for transportation and marketing
programs for the U.S. Agricultural Marketing Service.
The memo comes just before the deadline requiring the
National Organic Program to respond to a federal court
complaint filed in June by the Organic Consumers Association
(OCA), representing more than 500,000 members, and Dr.
Bronner's Magic Soaps/Dr. Bronner's & Sun Dog's
The memo puts to rest the USDA's attempt earlier this
year to prevent certified organic non-food products
from accessing the NOP program and displaying the USDA
organic seal. After that attempt Robinson wrote, the
USDA received "numerous inquiries" about the
removal of organic certification for non-food products.
Organizations and businesses that expressed opposition
to the USDA's attempted change in policy include - the
Organic Trade Association, California Certified Organic
Farmers, Friends of the Earth, the Campaign for Safe
Cosmetics, Bath & Body Works, and the American Herbal
The withdrawal of access to organic certification for
cosmetics and soaps would have reversed the USDA's longstanding
policy that invites companies to certify non-food products
to NOP standards and earn the USDA organic seal.
The OCA and Dr. Bronner's claimed that such a reversal
would have destroyed good faith investments while depriving
consumers of the ability to tell the difference between
a mislabeled or misbranded "organic" personal
care product from a bona fide NOP certified organic
product. People with allergies to chemical ingredients
in some non-organic products benefit from the organic
"We are pleased that USDA has decided to follow
the law and promote the interests of consumers by recognizing
that certified organic producers are indeed able to
access the NOP program and display the USDA organic
seal," said Joe Sandler, the lead attorney handling
Sandler says the complaint "will likely be withdrawn
by OCA/Dr. Bronner's following settlement talks over
the next 30 days."
"This is a major victory for organic consumers
who rely on NOP certification to ensure that their personal
care and other non-food consumable products like pet
foods contain real organic ingredients free from unnecessary
synthetic ingredients," said Ronnie Cummins, OCA
founder and national director.
The complaint was part of OCA's Coming Clean Campaign
for strong organic standards, which Cummins says drew
thousands of consumers and hundreds of businesses,
David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's/Sun Dog that
manufactures certified organic lotions, balms and soaps
made with organic oils, says he and his team are "thrilled"
to have played a part in retaining access to the NOP
standards and label for certified non-food products.
"Thanks to USDA's wise decision, brands such as
Dr. Bronner's & Sun Dog's Magic that support organic
agriculture and farmers with all the integrity the National
Organic Program intends, can continue to display the
USDA organic seal," Bronner said.
Lynn Betz, founder and president of Sensibility Soaps
that produces over 20 certified organic personal care
products, applauded the decision. "I commend NOP
Administrator Barbara Robinson and USDA's change of
heart in regards to certifying personal care products
under the National Organic Program. Supporting the integrity
of certified organic claims in the marketplace is of
immeasurable benefit to organic consumers, farmers and
suppliers as well as organic personal care manufacturers."
Congresswoman Melissa Hart, a Pennsylvania Republican
in whose district Sensibility Soaps is located, took
up the cause of organic consumers and industry in Congress
to ensure that access to the National Organic Program
would be preserved for qualified non-food products.
In a letter Hart said, "In addition to business
concerns it is important for consumers to see the USDA
organic seal when selecting personal care products because
many individuals who purchase organic products do so
because they are allergic to certain processed ingredients
that are often in non-organic products."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All