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By: David C. Steinberg, Steinberg & Associates
Posted: July 30, 2009, from the August 2009 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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A product that features vitamin E, for example, must list the chemical name tocopherol in the ingredient declaration since listing it as vitamin E could mislead consumers by giving the impression that it offers a nutrient or health benefit. In fact, vitamin E typically is added as an antioxidant to prevent the chemical deterioration of the product.2 On the other hand, the FDA does not object to stating that the product contains vitamins outside of the ingredient listing.
Since the FDA has not taken action against these infractions, some companies believe they can list ingredients in impermissible ways without consequence. However, many foreign countries enforce the rules, especially during customs inspections, and this can delay a product from reaching the market. This sometimes occurs when foreign goods are shipped into the United States as well.
Another labeling trend is highlighting the origins of ingredients by using terms like vegetable, natural, organic, or even better—certified organic. Some marketers further emphasize these origins by inserting an asterisk (*) within the ingredients declaration to call attention to materials in the product that are of a certain origin.
Readers of this column know there is no difference in chemicals from different origins; a molecule of glycerin is just that. Readers also know that there is no data showing “certified organic” materials to be safer or different from other materials with the same INCI designation.
To this author, nothing is more damaging to the personal care industry than using free on the product label or in its advertising—unless it’s the selling price. The first time that marketers discovered they could sell more of a product by promoting what it does not contain was in the early 1980s, when PABA-free became the term du jour for sunscreens.