Does ORGANIC really mean ORGANIC when it comes to product labels?
You’ve likely wandered through the organic section at the grocery store or health store, selecting products that are stamped “certified organic” or “natural." Did you know “natural” is an unregulated label? Regulations seem to be lacking in many countries.
Yes, there are standards that manufacturers and farmers must meet to carry an organic label on products. Unfortunately, the skincare industry faces less stringent criteria. So, when you see these products labelled “organic” or “natural”, if it is not backed by a reputable certification label, no authority has deemed it as such. Yikes!
Unfortunately, this has opened an inorganic can of worms. With the popularity of purchasing organic products exploding, more and more companies are getting on the “organic” branding bandwagon! With outdated FDA standards, loop holes and creative marketing techniques, companies are extorting customers in the process.
Canada created legislation in 2009 that notes that if companies label organic, it must be certified. Great, right? Not exactly. Although a great step, it is basically run on an honour system with some “spot checks.” With numerous stakeholders involved, all with different interests and investments, it truly seems like a recipe for disaster.
This is a HUGE conversation to be had!
It is up to us, as consumers, to learn if the many products we are purchasing are truly ORGANIC. There are ample articles out there with information about the organic regulations , or the lack thereof, but the purpose of this blog is to hopefully open it up for you to have bigger conversations and have more awareness when it comes to selecting products, not just skincare.
What is one to do?
So, the product claims to be ORGANIC...
- Check for reputable organic certification. Having an actual organic certification stamp on products are the easiest and safest way to gauge how ‘organic’ your products truly are.
- If there is no certification you should scan the ingredients list. Yes, it is ridiculous that we have to do this. However, there are endless harmful chemicals out there! There is a lot of information about this but please feel free to message me with questions. If you are new to this you can start with the “dirty dozen” chemicals. https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals-avoid/
Organic Certification – Skincare
All certifications are not equal! (see below chart for a visual comparison)
When it comes to ‘clean’ beauty, USDA (US Department of Agriculture) is the gold standard. The USDA has strictest regulations that meet the NOP (USDA’s National Organic Program) standards. USDA ensures that certified products have been scrutinized to meet the most rigorous laws and regulations. To be certified by USDA, the product must contain 95% - 100% organically produced ingredients. In addition, the remaining ingredients must be on their strict list of allowable substances. https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/national-list
It is important to note that U.S. does have an equivalency agreement with Canada. This means, these certified organic products are considered certified organic in Canada as well. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Equivalency%20FAQ.pdf
In Canada, although there are federal standards, but these regulations do NOT apply to non-food products, including personal care products (i.e. Skincare). Regulations have been introduced at the provincial level in many provinces but they often simply mimic the federal regulations.
EcoCert is a European-based organization for natural and organic products which are not as rigid as USDA certification. EcoCert allows 20% of total product organic content as certifiable. EcoCert standards allows many harmful substances, ones that are prohibited by USDA. Check labels!
COSMOS (COSMetic Organic and Natural Standard) is also European-based recognized by the cosmetic industry. COSMOS has minimal restrictions when it comes to preservatives, including harmful ingredients that USDA has banned.
Food item tip!
Fruits and Vegetables – check the sticker on the produce. Organic fruits and vegetables will contain a five-digit code starting with a 9. Non-organic produce will have four digit, often starting with a 4.
Understanding Food Quality labels
EWG's Dirty Dozen