A vast array of US cosmetic products is being labeled “organic”—from certified organic massage oils to shampoos containing synthetic surfactants and preservatives. The resulting confusion in the marketplace indicates that the organic food industry and the organic cosmetics industry do not know what to think of, or do with, each other. The major organic food markets in the United States, the European Union (EU) and Japan have all struggled with whether—and how to—embrace the emerging cosmetic “stepchild” of organic foods. Regulators in each of these three markets have referred to cosmetics in their organic food programs, but these references have not always helped to clarify the situation. The regulatory answer to the question of using the food standards to certify cosmetics could be paraphrased in each of these markets as follows:
• United States: “Yes you can. No you can’t. OK, I suppose you can.”
• European Union: “Not now, not ever.”
• Japan: “Go ahead—just do not translate it into Japanese.”
To a company entering the organic cosmetics market, the worldwide picture will be overwhelmingly confusing. To an experienced marketer, the worldwide picture also is overwhelmingly confusing.