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Federal Complaint with USDA Filed Against False “Organic” Personal Care Brands

(Beyond Pesticides, January 20, 2010) The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), along with certified organic personal care brands Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Intelligent Nutrients, and Organic Essence, last week filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP), seeking action to stop some personal care manufacturers from, according to the petitioners, mislabeling their products as “organic.” The petitioners are requesting an investigation into what it believes is widespread and blatantly deceptive labeling practices of leading “organic” personal care brands, in violation of USDA NOP regulations.

The complaint, filed collectively on behalf of 50 million consumers of organic products, argues that products such as liquid soaps, body washes, facial cleansers, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizing lotions, lip balms, make-up and other cosmetic products produced by 12 different corporations have been advertised, labeled and marketed as “organic” or “organics” when, in fact, the petitioners say the products are not “organic” as understood by reasonable consumers.

“Unfortunately, the hands-off regulatory approach by the USDA’s National Organic Program during the Bush years failed to protect consumers from deceptive labeling in the personal care marketplace,” said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Association. While the USDA enforces strict standards for the labeling of organic food, the NOP has not enforced organic regulations for personal care products. “Given the increased resources and staffing at the National Organic Program under Obama, we’re optimistic that the situation will be rectified before too much more damage is done.” added Mr. Cummins.

“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, and not from petrochemicals or pesticide and herbicide-intensive conventional farming,” explains Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Intelligent Nutrients (and founder and previous owner of Aveda Corp.)

The corporations named in the complaint are The Hain Celestial Group, Inc.; Kiss My Face Corporation; YSL Beauté, Inc. (“YSL”); Giovanni Cosmetics, Inc. (“Giovanni”); Cosway Company, Inc. (“Cosway”); Country Life, LLC (“Country Life”); Szep Elet LLC (makers of Ilike Organic Skin Care); Eminence Organic Skin Care, Inc.; Physicians’ Formula Holdings, Inc. (makers of Organic Wear); Surya Nature, Inc.; Organic Bath Company, Freeman Beauty Division of pH Beauty Labs, Inc. (makers of Freeman Goodstuff Organics).

David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, stated, “Yesterday we re-filed our lawsuit in federal court against culprit companies under the Lanham Act for false advertising. One way or another, the era of ripping off organic consumers in personal care will soon come to an end.”

Ellery West, founder and owner of Organic Essence adds, “The predatory marketing practices of companies that take advantage of consumer trust in the organic label are cheating not only organic consumers but also small certified companies like ourselves.”

On November 5, 2009, the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) formally recommended that the National Organic Program regulate personal care to ensure that any use of the word “organic” on a personal care product is backed up by third-party certification to USDA organic standards. Immediately following the recommendation, OCA launched a consumer boycott of those brands it has identified as mislabeled “organic,” and has produced a list of USDA certified organic brands that it says are true to their claims.

Beyond Pesticides is a member of the National Organic Coalition (NOC), and recently, Jay Feldman, director of Beyond Pesticides, was appointed to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Instead of using these harmful products and practices, organic agriculture utilizes techniques such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and composting to produce healthy soil, prevent pest and disease problems, and grow healthy food and fiber.

Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. For more information on organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Program.

For more information on the Organic Consumers’ Association’s Coming Clean campaign, go to: www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare.


2 Responses to “Federal Complaint with USDA Filed Against False “Organic” Personal Care Brands”

  1. 1
    Melange Public Relations Says:

    Szep Elet strongly supports movement toward clearer AND more universal standards for qualification and communication of what is and is not “organic”. The clarity and understanding of, adherence to and compliance with standards in the U.S. has been lacking. Furthermore, there has been little progress toward universally understood and accepted … See Morestandards or requirements that cross international boundaries.
    No one from the OCA or other parties behind the complaint has ever contacted Szep Elet for information. And the portion of the complaint which covers ilike organic skin care products totals only 2 short paragraphs yet includes statements such as “…few if any of the ingredients are actually organic.”
    While the U.S. is a very important market for ilike organic skin care, our products are distributed in 41 other countries around the world (under the Ilcsi organic skin care brand in all countries outside of N. America). Several years ago it was decided that our products would be certified through the widely recognized and respected German based certifier BDIH.

  2. 2
    Kelly Says:

    Eminence is not made in Hungary, it is made in Vancouver. It also falsifies its ingredient list, removing chemicals which are present.
    This company http://www.vitellelab.com/ packages and changes the ingredient lists intentionally for Eminence, removing chemicals.

    Eminence did not create its products, it stole the formulas from this company http://www.ilcsi.com/ which is the original Hungarian organics company.

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