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The Future of an Organic Personal Care Product Standard
by Carrie Dooher
In June 2009, after great anticipation and six years of collaboration, the natural and organic personal care industry received a new standard—the COSMOS Standard—a cooperative effort between six different certifying bodies to create a harmonized European cosmetics organic and natural standard. But just as the COSMOS standard comes “to market” as an option for private certification, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is being urged by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Certification, Accreditation, and Compliance Committee (CACC) to create a harmonized organic standard by incorporating personal care products and cosmetics into the National Organic Program (NOP), found at 7 C.F.R. Part 205. Pressure continues to mount for
a global organic standard for personal care products.1 With so many new standards recently in the market and on the horizon for personal care standards, given the increased interest in and sales of organic personal care products, and in light of continued confusion about what
is an Attorney with the law firm of Kleinfeld Kaplan & Becker, Washington, DC.
constitutes an “organic” personal care product, it is possible that a government- mandated standard will emerge. Until that time, however, manufacturers
must continue to navigate the waters of voluntarily certifying to the NOP organic personal care product standards and private certification standards to best position their products.
I. The Standards
USDA’s current position on organic personal care products is that the NOP
is designed to regulate food and agricul- tural products and does not explicitly incorporate “organic” claims as they apply to cosmetic, body care or personal care products. USDA currently allows manufacturers on a voluntary basis to label their personal care products organic if, by virtue of their organic agricultural product content, they meet the NOP organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards. These products can then be labeled as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” “made with organic,” or individual organic ingredients can be highlighted, pursuant to the NOP regula- tions.2 In the absence of USDA authority to mandate standards for organic claims for personal care products, the USDA has acknowledged that private standards and certifications may be used. While USDA does not regulate those private standards or certifications at this time, USDA has stated that personal care products certi-
fied to private standards may not imply compliance with the NOP if the product does not meet the NOP standards, and has provided guidance on the standards that may be used by USDA-Accredited Certifying Agents (ACA) who perform “private label certification”:
“1. NOP expects full accountability and traceability in the organic sup- ply chain.
2. The final handler (private labeler/ marketer/commission merchant) may choose the ACA to certify product. But that ACA appearing
on that product of the final handler must be able to address any inquiries about the product, by a consumer or other interested party, and is fully responsible for ensuring that the certified operation and organically produced product meets all require- ments of the NOP regulations.
3. Provided 1 and 2 are satisfied, ACAs performing ‘private label cer- tification’ will not have accreditation placed at risk by the NOP for this activity.”3
The USDA has stated that it reserves the right to revise these policies. Among other resources, it looks to its 15-mem- ber NOSB, and its committees, such as CACC, to assist the Secretary of Agricul- ture in advising on the implementation of the NOP and in developing standards for substances to be used in organic pro-
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