WASHINGTON, 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 Magic http://www.drbronnersundog.com.
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 Products Association.
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 labels.
"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 the complaint.
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
"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
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
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 Rights Reserved.