There's a lot of misinformation floating around. Understanding the USDA Certified Organic certification for personal care products, the requirements, standards and process is not exactly simple or clear. Even some manufacturers and companies selling "organic" or "made with certified organic ingredients" products don't fully understand the ins and outs or what it takes for products to actually be USDA Certified Organic. Several companies have told me their products "meet the USDA organic standards" so they plan to add the USDA Organic seal to the labels of their product(s).
A company simply cannot claim their product is "Certified Organic" because they feel their product(s) meets the requirements. The company and product must go through an extensive and expensive cert process and must be granted approval to use the seal before it gets slapped on any product. Unless the company has gone through the process, they can't claim "USDA certification" or use the seal on their product. And just because a product contains 95% organic ingredients doesn't mean it is a USDA certified organic product. Those are two entirely different things and likely where a good portion of the confusion lies.
So how are we, conscious consumers, supposed to know exactly what it all means?? I consulted with two people I trust to make sure I was on the right track. Stephanie Greenwood, Bubble & Bee Organic founder and Melinda Olson, Earth Mama Angel Baby's founder (and mama of It's Only Sunny in Philadelphia actress Kaitlin Olson), have both gone through the USDA Organic Certification process for their fabulous products, they intimately know the requirements and I trust them.
First, you should know that according to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) there are four categories which products fall into if they have the word "organic" on the label:
"Organic" Claims Categories
1). "100% Organic": All ingredients (not counting added water or salt) must be 100% organically produced. Products containing 100% Organic ingredients qualify to go through the USDA Certified Organic process
in order to be granted permission to use the USDA Certified Organic seal.
2). "Certified Organic": 95 – 99.9% of ingredients (not counting added water or salt) must be produced organically. May contain up to 5% of non-organically produced agricultural ingredients which are not commercially available in organic form, and/or other substances as allowed by law. Products labeled "95 – 99.9% Organic" qualify to go through the USDA Certified Organic process in order to be granted permission to use the USDA Certified Organic seal.
3). "Made With Organic Ingredients": 70 – 94.9% of ingredients must be produced organically. May contain up to 30% of non-organically produced agricultural ingredients which are not commercially available in organic form, and/or other substances as allowed by law. This product does not qualify for USDA Organic Certification or use of the seal.
4). Organic Ingredients denoted with an asterisk in ingredients list: contains less than 70% of organically produced ingredients. This product does not qualify for USDA Organic Certification or use of the seal. This product does not qualify for USDA Organic Certification or use of the seal.
These categories have been laid out by the USDA and refer to organic claims and labeling on personal care products in the United States. Europe and other countries have their own certifications and standards, which have different requirements, allowances and labeling criteria.
Is there any type of organic police that goes around giving citations to companies who misuse and abuse the word "organic" on personal care products? Nope! Not right now anyway. The USDA/FDA does not currently claim responsibility for personal care products, but they do crack down on false organic claims for food, so personal care busts may be next. According to Melinda Olson of Earth Mama Angel Baby, "it’s in process though!. The NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) and the OTA (Organic Trade Association) are working on it!"
Where To Find
Want to know where to find USDA Certified Organic personal care products that we love and support? Click on over to our right column and scroll down to "Search By Category or Brand", go all the way to the bottom and click on "USDA Certified Organic".
Does this help clear up some of your own confusion about USDA Organic standards as they relate to personal care products? Do you have additional questions or thoughts? Please share with us in the comments!
Image credit: via