These past few months Berry Beautiful has been jumping through all the hoops to get USDA Organic Certification for a new line of Certified Organic Red Raspberry Seed products. As we’ve gone through the process, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to produce truly certified organic red raspberry seed oil and it has come to my attention that many, many companies are gaming the system. Now I understand that if you want an organic product or ingredient you have to look for the USDA organic seal on the label. If the label doesn’t have the USDA organic seal and it’s not certified by some other legitimate agency, such as ECOCERT, you can be sure that the product or ingredient is not “Organic” even if the word organic is used on the label.
A quick online search turned up a number of companies that are misrepresenting their carrier oils as organic. In fact, one of these companies recently purchased conventional red raspberry seed oil from us, re-bottled it, slapped on an “Organic” label and is selling it for double the price we sell our oil. It turns out unsuspecting consumers are getting scammed by a multitude of companies who claim their products are “Organic” when many don’t even contain a speck of real organically grown ingredients!
“If you see a product that’s labeled organic but it doesn’t have the USDA Organic seal, do your homework. Check the ingredients and decide whether this product meets your expectations of organic.” Herb Weisbaum, NBC News
The US Agriculture Department has been enforcing organic claims on food sold in the United States since 2002, but does not do the same for personal care products. When it comes to personal care items sold in the US, nobody polices organic claims except the State of California, which has led to a number of lawsuits you can read about here. Unscrupulous manufacturers of personal care products and ingredients use the customer pleasing term “Organic” on their labels even when the product they are selling contains zero “Organic” ingredients. This is especially true of online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy and EBay, where even California laws have no reach.
Whole Foods, one of the organic world’s largest retailers has started listening to the uproar from their customers who rightfully feel they’ve been getting ripped-off. They’ve changed their policy on the use of “Organic” for personal care products. Whole Foods’ new policy requires personal care products to meet the same organic labeling standards as food products. Hopefully, this is a game changer and other retailers such as Trader Joe’s and Amazon will follow suit and stop selling mislabeled non-certified organic personal care products and ingredients.
Let’s be clear, “Organic” is not a concept or a marketing ploy, it is an agricultural method. When we see the word “Organic” used on the label of a product we expect that the product contains agricultural ingredients that have been produced within the USDA organic guidelines. Under these guidelines “Organic” refers to a method of growing and processing crops where non-GMO agricultural products are produced, packaged and stored without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides. It’s more expensive for farmers to raise and process crops this way, they must work with nature to build and replenish the nutrients in the soil through crop rotations, composting and cultivation in an effort to build healthy soils that produce healthy more resistant plants.
People want the choice of being able to confidently buy products that are non-GMO and have been raised more sustainably. People want to have the option of purchasing products that do not contain toxic pesticide residues and have not been processed using toxic solvents. The goal of the USDA Organic Program is to give people this clear option.