Category Archives: Laws

Ingredients & the Sin of Omission

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There are a few ingredients of concern that keep popping up on “clean“ personal care labels that we all need to know about.

Are you using these ingredients?

Propandiol (also known as Zemea): This ingredient is wonderful – except that it is made from GM Corn. When asked directly, Lyle and Tate (the manufacturers of Zemea) will tell you that it is made from GM Corn. It does not test positive for GMOs so they can say, “GMO Free”. Why? When you process the corn sugars to make the product, the protein, which is where the GMO – DNA would show up, is gone due to the processing. Omission #1.

Emulsifying Wax: some of the other INCI names for this ingredient are:

• Cetylstearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60

• Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Polysorbate 60 (and) PEG-150 Stearate (and) Steareth-20

Everything in red is ethoxylated – that means it contains 1, 4 Dioxanes, known carcinogens. You’ve probably seen a hundred sites that claim that they do not have “1, 4 Dioxanes” but… emulsifying wax does contain this contaminants. The INCI Committee grandfathered this INCI name into the dictionary many years before chemical names were required. It still may be called Emulsifying Wax even though it is actually a compound of 2 to 4 other chemicals. Omission # 2.

Lavender Oil (non-organic): the larger producers of lavender oil will tell you that twice as much Lavender Essential Oil is sold as is actually produced from plants. This has been going on for many years. This is because it is pretty easy to make a “nature identical” chemical that smells like lavender oil and add a bit of carrier oil and some natural lavender oil and you are off to the races – the cheap races where you pay more but get less. Real lavender oil or any real essential oil, is grown in small batches, harvested by hand, distilled by hand and then consolidated and sold to the larger oil traders. It is expensive and a little goes a long way. Organic does not have this problem because it is audited every year (think IRS). Omission # 3.

“Bio-synthesis”: this term usually means that a yeast has been genetically modified, fed sugar and then it makes all sorts of wonderful ingredients: squalene, rose oil, a lot of new and interesting ingredients. I personally do not think that this is bad. From what is known now, it seems very sustainable. The problem comes when the manufacturers do not tell you about the GM Yeast part. No problem with the ingredients, the problem is with the people committing that “sin” again. Omission # 4.

If you are making personal care products, study up on these issues. We want consumers to get what they pay for and we want them to come back for more – so that means quality ingredients and supported claims. Know what you are buying, hold your suppliers accountable and require that they prove any claim they make about a product you buy from them. It is professional. We do that every day with every ingredient we sell. You’re customer is worth it! 🎃

Organic Documents for Organic Ingredients – MiniBlog

Do you have the organic certificate for each of the organic ingredients you call out on your
ingredients list?

Think about it – a label is a promise to a consumer. If you have not verified that you have a duly certified product, you could be in trouble and that would be a problem for your growing brand. Maybe you only use organic ingredients. That is great but…the USDA-NOP (National Organic Program) has the right to ask you to show them an organic certificate for each ingredient at any time – especially in California (where we have a State Organic enforcement program). Do you have those certificates on file?

Here is some info about requesting organic certificates:

  • What Standards are acceptable? The USDA-NOP is a LAW in the US that establishes the rules for organic production – from seed to finished product. There is an equally rigorous law in the EU member States and the US and the EU have reciprocity – we accept each other’s organic certificates by any ACA.
  • What is an ACA? An Accredited Certification Agency – these folks have been inspected and approved by the USDA. The link takes you to a list of US ACAs that are in good standing.
  • Do I need to have a finished product certified? You do not – however, if you claim that an ingredient is organic, it must be certified. If someone won’t send you a cert, they may not be certified and the ingredient may not be organic.
  • What if I want to be certified? Since cosmetics may contain ingredients that cannot be certified
    (surfactants, emulsifiers, and preservatives) under the food rules you may want to look at the Cosmetic Standards: COSMOS, NaTrue, or NSF-305

We are certified by Oregon Tilth (aka OTCO) and we are inspected once a year and receive a new
certificate each year. If you are using organic ingredients you are responsible for requesting a copy of the certificate each year.

Mislabeling: The FDA and the The No-No Words

A lot of cosmetic brands seem to have a “No-No List” of ingredients. I think it is time for a list of “No-No” words – because, you know, FDA and “mislabeling”.

The basic thing you need to keep in mind is that unless you are selling a registered, approved DRUG, you may not any use words that promise a medical outcome. That is considered mislabeling and mislabeling is against the law. So – here is a partial list of “No-No” words:

  •    HealMislabeling
  •    Healing
  •    Anti-inflammatory
  •    Anti-microbial
  •    Anti-bacterial
  •    Cures
  •    Penetrates to (heal, sooth, etc.)
  •    Stimulates circulation …
  •    Treats
  •    Alleviates eczema, rosacea, scarring, acne, etc
  •    Improves circulation
  •    Minimizes
  •    Improves the skin’s immunity
  •    Boosts collagen
  •    Protects from UV Rays (this = sunblock – and must be registered with the FDA)
  •    Protects against infection
  •    Cellular regeneration

Oh, I could go on. What these all have in common is what the FDA calls a “structure-function claim”.  Structure = a body part (skin, muscle) and Function = changing the physiology of that body part. These sorts of claims = DRUGS and are seen is mislabeling by the FDA. The USDA-FDA makes a lot of money approving drugs so if you have not sent them a couple 100,000 dollars, you are probably not selling a drug.

Look at your website – are you making structure-function claims? If so – use that wonderful, free thesaurus on Google and fix it before you get a scary letter from the FDA. You can “change the appearance of”, you can “sooth the symptoms of” you can do all sorts of things, but no structure function claims! You do not want a letter from FDA accusing you of mislabeling.

The organic and natural cosmetic industry needs to look good in the eyes of the law. We do not need big manufacturers telling the FDA that we should be heavily licensed or regulated. We need room to grow. Know the laws. Respect them. Do good work.

Hugs                   Resources:    Choose Your Words                          Link to FDA Article


Non-GMO & RSPO vs. Organic Label Claims

We receive weekly requests for “Non-GMO” verification or “RSPO” (Sustainable Palm) certification. I continue to have to explain why “organic” certification is a more rigorous and legally accountable regulation and that our organic certificate includes both “Non-GMO” and “Sustainable” claims. Here are some details.


How the Organic Regulations Work:

Certified Organic products must meet the requirements of laws*.

These laws were proposed, revised, and fought over for 12 years and, I believe, are pretty good at protecting the environment and consumers. You buy a product that has been inspected annually (as required by law), the soil, water and air impacted by the farming portion of the supply chain is improved (as required by law), and the label on the package is approved by an accredited certifier (as required by law) protecting the consumer. If someone commits fraud they can be hauled into court and fined or jailed (it’s happened!). Additionally, in the State of California, organic operations are subject to spot inspection and testing including additional GM testing.

In the US, Canada, and the EU, these the organic regulations are almost identical and they have legal reciprocity: if it is certified to Canadian or EU Organic Regulations in Canada or an EU Country it is allowed to be sold in the US as “Organic” and the same goes for American goods sold in Canada or the EU.


How Non-GMO and the RSPO Labels Work:

The Standards that these two projects use are PRIVATE – a non-profit owns and implements the Standard. The Non-GMO Project, for example, has applicants fill out paperwork and, for the most part, asks them to “tell the truth” – whether they know it is true or not is a different question. They only do on-site inspections if they feel there is cause (for example if it is an ingredient made from soy or corn) so the level of scrutiny is fairly low. Many applicants use Non-GMO certification because it s easier to get than the “Organic”. “Non-GMO” does not exclude pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or synthetic food additives – it ONLY excludes GMO produced inputs .

The Non-GMO Project is a great idea in principle but, not so great in practice – they are so busy that they rarely answer the phone. Unlike the USDA-NOP, there is no transparency, no over-sight and. . .they certify things that could never, ever be from GMO crops (like water or hydrogen peroxide. Really, when was the last time you saw that hydrogen peroxide farm?). In my humble opinion, certifying “Non-GMO Water’ falls into the category of consumer deception: there is no such thing as GM water – genetic engineering happens with plant crops and some micro-organisms.

As to the RSPO palm folks – they are trying to say they are sustainable without becoming organic. Many of them are swapping carbon credit type values in order to claim that they are sustainable. Again, somewhat deceptive and neither clear nor transparent with consumers.

The only way you get guaranteed transparent information about how agricultural products are grown and processed is from certified organic producers.


Bottom Line:

Organic laws hold people and corporations accountable and there are fines and jail time for violators. There really are people who’ve gone to jail in the US for violating the laws under the USDA National Organic Program.

If, however, you are “certified” to the Non-GMO project or the RSPO Standard for Sustainable Palm, there is little accountability for either the Certifier or the Applicant using the label claim.

Laws governing organic prohibit the use of GM sourced inputs and define sustainability in law and require one to “improve” ones environment as part of ones “organic management plan”. Then they require you to prove that you are meeting the regulations by the way the “plan” is implemented.

Why would anyone value a Non-GMO or RSPO Cert above an Organic Certificate? Probably because they really don’t want you to look too closely at their products. Organic certification is your only assurance of enforceable environmental management and safer farming and production techniques.

If you have any questions about anything I’ve said here, please write or call. I feel passionately that consumers and the planet need regulated protection – greed, sadly, has too strong of a pull on some people and we need the force of law to protect us all. Buy organic!


* CFR 7, Part 205 based on the Organic Food Protection Act of 1990 plus the California Organic Products Act of 2003.