June 22, 2011
The center for Environmental Health based out of Oakland, California has sued the manufacturers of 26 personal care products that allegedly violate California’s organic labelling law that requires a product to be made up of at least 70% organic ingredients. The center feels that while there are somewhat more intense regulations in place for food and food supplements, those regulations just don’t exist for personal health care products.
“We found dozens of shampoos, lotions and toothpaste and other personal care products labeled as organic, yet, these products contain few or no organic products,” said Charles Margulis of the Center of Environmental Health, “Unfortunately they’re taking advantage of lax enforcement of the rules in California.”
The proof of this is in the packaging itself, which in these products does not show the required amount of organic ingredients according to the center.
The center previously sued organic heavyweight Hain Celestial Group Inc. in May, claiming its Jason and Avalon Organics brands were mislabelled. Other Hain brands were included in the more recently filed lawsuit.
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At Lakeshore Natural Foods in Oakland, certified nutritionist Pat Lennox said she worries about other words such as pure, healthful, and natural.
Executive director of The Center of Environmental Health, Michael Green said that the center purchased dozens of the products earlier this year and he stated that many of them failed to reach the 70% quota necessary to stay within the law.
“For years, organic advocates have called on personal care for companies to fix their improper ‘organic’ labels, but our recent purchasing shows the industry is still rife with unsubstantiated organic claims,” Green said.
The center stresses that there are still plenty of products that are organic so it’s just a matter of consumers knowing what to look for while shopping. They went on to state that if the package says “certified organic,” those products can be validated with the certifying organization. But even then, the products can have a mixture of organic and regular ingredients.
Unfortunately, just meeting the legal definition of a word seems to be enough. For another example, “Fat free” creates the impression that there is no fat in a food, yet there can be fat in the product and still legally stay in the realm of “fat free.”
Serving sizes are debatable as well, so in one “fat free” product, you can really eat a rather unhealthy amount of fat without even realizing it. Product manufacturers are in the business of making money and “Organic” products cost more than non organic products for a variety of reasons. If the product is fraudulently labeled, that extra cost becomes pure profit. The organic industry is just that – an industry. Your best bet, as always, is to educate yourself.
As of now the federal government doesn’t have any rules to fight against the fraudulent labeling of organic products but the United States department of Agriculture has approved California’s standards, which is a start.
Sources for this story include: