The Lotion Loophole

Confusion over the ‘organic’ label extends beyond the food aisle
to the realm of foot creams and toothpaste. In late 2005 the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) broadened the range of products
that could receive organic certification to include items like body
care products, cotton, and cleaning solutions. Strangely, however,
the USDA does not enforce the requirements behind the label when it
comes to body care products.

‘A vast array of body care products labeled ‘organic’ . . .
differ little from run-of-the-mill drugstore commodities,’ report
James Hahn and Diana Kaye in Mothering
(March/April 2006). The catch is a loophole in the regulation: If a
company certifies just one product as organic, the USDA allows the
company as a whole to market itself as ‘certified organic.’

What are concerned lotion enthusiasts to do? Hahn and Kaye
recommend getting familiar with the labels. Watch out for synthetic
chemicals that make their way into ‘natural’ products, including
common additions such as surfactants and synthetic fragrance. And
keep a close eye on the preservatives that are added to body care
products; those known as parabens have been pegged as hormone
disrupters and possible cancer-causing agents.

And be wary of the company name. There are no rules when it
comes to naming a new body care products company. If Philip Morris
started a new lotion-making division, they could call it Altria
Organics, and no one would stop them. –Laine Bergeson

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