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A Huge Step for Organic Body Care

By Joe Dickson, June 18, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Joe Dickson
When it comes to food, the definition of “organic” is extremely clear, thanks to the USDA’s National Organic Program standards, the Federal regulation that defines just how organic food is grown, raised, processed and sold. When it comes to shampoo, soap and make-up, however, the definitions are not so clear, since the USDA doesn’t have the same control over personal care products as it does over food. While many personal care products are certified under the USDA standards and many display the USDA Organic Seal, the USDA doesn’t currently have the authority to police organic claims on personal care products that aren’t certified. In other words, any food with “organic” on the label is subject to strict standards and enforcement by the Federal government, but personal care products are not. In our own stores, however, we’ve taken a giant leap toward ensuring our shoppers that the word “organic” has the same strong meaning in every department of the store. Last week, we announced that as of June 1, 2011, all organic personal care products sold in our U.S. stores will have to be certified organic. These guidelines will require quite a few of our suppliers to become certified, change their labels, reformulate their products and take other measures to comply with our guidelines. We’re taking this huge step, and asking our suppliers to make these changes, because we believe very strongly that the meaning of the word “organic” shouldn’t change as you walk around the store. In the grocery aisles, an “organic” product is made of at least 95% organic agricultural materials grown using earth-friendly practices without toxic or persistent pesticides (and the remaining 5% can only contain carefully vetted substances from a short list of approved additives). Now, the word “organic” in our body care departments will signify that same set of ideals. Here’s our guidelines in a nutshell:
  • Products claiming to be “organic” – e.g. “Organic Shampoo” – must be certified to the USDA NOP standard, the same standard to which organic foods must be certified. This standard requires 95% organic ingredients and places strict restrictions on the substances that can be used in the remaining 5%.
  • Products claiming to be “made with organic _____” – e.g. “Made with organic essential oils and extracts” – must be certified to the USDA NOP “made with organic” standard, which requires at least 70% organic ingredients and places strict restrictions on the substances that can be used in the remaining 30%.
  • Products making the claim “contains organic _____” – e.g “Contains organic rosemary, clove and thyme oils” – must be certified to the NSF 305 Personal Care Standard. This consensus-based standard requires at least 70% organic ingredients, and like the USDA NOP standard, places strict restrictions on the substances that can be used in the remaining 30%. However, this standard allows for a small number of substances and processes that are not allowed in the USDA standard for food (since the standard as it exists now is aimed at food, not personal care), that have been carefully reviewed by the NSF International Joint Committee on Organic Personal Care (of which I’m a member), which is made up of manufacturers, retailers, regulators, certifiers, consumer groups and others stakeholders.
We’ve been very frustrated by years of confusion and misunderstanding in the marketplace about just what “organic” means in the body care aisles. We’ve seen all sorts of products with varying levels of organic content that claim to be organic, and it’s time to level the playing field. With this announcement, we’re ensuring that the organic label retains its strong meaning, and that organic personal care manufacturers have to go through the same level of oversight and practice the same level of integrity as food makers currently do. This will make it easier for shoppers to trust the organic label in our stores, and help the organic personal care products market evolve and grow. Our hope is that someday the USDA will regulate organic personal care products just as it does food. In our testimony before the National Organic Standards Board last November, we expressed our strong support of the Board’s recommendation that the USDA regulate personal care products, and we commented that: We and our shoppers expect a consistent definition of “organic” throughout the store, and the jurisdictional borders between Federal agencies should not ultimately derail this goal. The consistent regulation of the “organic” label across all product categories will increase consumer confidence, improve integrity, curtail deceptive labeling claims, and substantially increase the use of USDA Organic agricultural ingredients in personal care products. In January, the FDA indicated that it was considering the issue, and in April, the USDA announced that it was pursuing discussions with the FDA. We are closely following the government’s work on this issue, and will continue to offer our perspective and guidance. We hope that the agencies work quickly to come up with a solution to this problem, but in the absence of government regulation, our new guidelines will ensure that our shoppers can trust the organic label no matter what department they’re shopping in.
Category: Whole Body

 

20 Comments

Comments

Kay says ...
Hello, I am in Canada. Does this fantastic new criteria extend accross the border? ie; if a product carries the USDA organic label on a product sold in Canada, is it complying with your new standards in the US ?? or as with many things, does this have to go through a Canadian Federal Dept. before it is 'released' upon us? Thanks Kay
06/21/2010 11:55:02 AM CDT
Tracy says ...
It shouldn't be any other way. Thank you Whole Foods!
06/24/2010 4:31:52 PM CDT
Mo says ...
It'd be cool if you made an organic version of your 365 hair & body care products.
06/18/2010 1:04:16 PM CDT
randl says ...
Hello Mo, We do have a new Whole Foods Market brand USDA Organic All Purpose Castile Soap in our stores. Look for it in peppermint, lavender and almond scents. Lecia Rand, Category Manager Whole Body Store Brand products.
06/18/2010 6:16:16 PM CDT
Ashley says ...
Hey home office! I'm a body care specialist in Houston. Thanks for doing this. I love it. :)
06/18/2010 6:53:35 PM CDT
Jennifer James says ...
This is fabulous. Thank you for looking out for your customers!
06/18/2010 8:20:46 PM CDT
Donna Rivera says ...
PKL WB TL, here. I love the fact that we're bringing integrity to our products by requiring clear labeling. Our guests trust us and our decicive process that is involved in each product we put on our shelves. Thank you, Whole Foods, for holding true to our core values and once again making me proud to work for this company!
06/20/2010 10:42:48 AM CDT
David Franklin says ...
I eat strictly Organic, so I can taste the difference when something is not truly organic. Thank you for maintaining your high standards. I shop your stores exclusively.
06/21/2010 1:19:10 PM CDT
Andre says ...
YES! Well done Whole Foods now put the pressure on other markets to follow your lead!
06/21/2010 2:51:38 PM CDT
prAna says ...
We are very glad to hear about this and look forward to the new Whole Foods opening in Encinitas, CA! We posted this story to http://www.facebook.com/prana
06/21/2010 3:04:57 PM CDT
Lucas says ...
This is a great news! WF set up this rule for all the brands playing fair. But, there are something not clear in the guidelines. 1. How about those brands who don't have organic certification, but they do have an "Organics" name on the brand? 2. How about those brands who certified by other standards, such as Ecocert, Soil Association, Natrue.....etc ? Are they classified under the rule "Contains organic ingredients" ?
06/24/2010 7:40:48 AM CDT
Emily Roth says ...
This is great news!!! Congratulations, Whole Foods, for taking a HUGE step. I hope that these suppliers will step up and take the challenge! We as consumers deserve quality chemical-free products.
06/30/2010 8:44:11 AM CDT
Carol says ...
I am looking for an organic toothpaste. Do you have any plans to include organic toothpaste in your personal care products?
06/30/2010 6:23:44 PM CDT
Barb says ...
Thank you for looking after your customers. Whole Foods is my most favorite store!
06/30/2010 7:42:57 PM CDT
Joel says ...
This is excellent, is Wholefoods planning to do any grassroots efforts to help people press the USDA and FDA to apply the organic standards to personal care items? If not, please do!
07/01/2010 12:43:10 PM CDT
Susan Shortall says ...
Organic and all/mostly natural personal care products have been very important to me for a very long time. It has always been quite a task for me when searching for organic/natural hair products, moisturizers, make-up, etc. This is wonderful news. Thank you Whole Foods. Keep up the wonderful work that you do.
07/01/2010 8:35:05 AM CDT
Liz says ...
This move is great. Since going all organic on earthday this year, products in the personal care line has been difficult to pick an item for use. As a side note, I have had a couple of years of health problems that have mostly gone away. Have lost 26 lbs. and my husband has lost 20 lbs. And I feel the best in my life, so much so that I have bought stock in Whole Foods! Keep up the good work!
07/01/2010 11:12:11 AM CDT
Mani says ...
Any idea of organic tooth paste? Also any idea of opening a store in India?
08/07/2010 6:20:50 PM CDT
Rosa says ...
I'm so happy to hear this. It shows what a responsible company Whole Foods is. I find it very difficult and frustrating to determine the safety of body care products, especially cosmetics. Perhaps you could begin to carry more cosmetics that are labeled "EU Directive Compliant". (I was surprised recently that a salesperson at WF was not familiar with that designation even though you do carry some products with that label.)
08/11/2010 9:30:38 PM CDT
Shawn says ...
Just visited a whole foods and noticed that there is a noticeable lack of natural organic styling sprays. We offer a very effective spray that really should be on the shelf. I wonder what a company can do in the pursuit of such?
12/01/2010 4:24:07 PM CST