Whole Foods to Require USDA Certification on Organic Personal Care Products

US retailer Whole Foods Market announced that all personal care products and cosmetics making “organic” claims will be required to be third-party certified by June 1, 2011, in order to be sold in its US stores. Under the new guideline, all products making this claim must be certified to the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) National Organic Program (NOP) standards, the same standard to which organic food must be certified under US law.

In addition, the retailer will require personal care products making “made with organic ingredients” claims to be certified to NOP standards, and those making “contains organic ingredients” claims to be certified to the NSF 305 ANSI Standard for Organic Personal Care products--a consensus-based industry standard accepted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and managed by NSF International.

The USDA has stated that personal care products can be certified to the NOP standard, but such certification is not mandatory for non-food products. To honor the authenticity of the organic label, however, Whole Foods Market will require organic certification to ensure the claims are accurate.

“At Whole Foods Market, our shoppers do not expect the definition of organic to change substantially between the food and non-food aisles of our stores,” said Joe Dickson, quality standards coordinator, Whole Foods Market, in a press statement. “We believe that the ‘organic’ claim used on personal care products should have just as strong a meaning to the ‘organic’ claim used on food products, which is currently regulated by the USDA’s National Organic Program.”

The company’s set of requirements applies to all personal care products and cosmetics that use the word organic in any way on the product label including in the brand name, which must be certified to the USDA NOP or NSF 305 standards. Whole Foods Market is currently working with manufacturers to transition their label claims to the meet these standards:

  1. Products making an organic product claim must be certified to the USDA’s National Organic Program standard for organic (> 95%) products.
  2. Products making a made with organic claim must be certified to the USDA’s National Organic Program standard for Made with Organic (> 70%) products.
  3. Products making a contains organic claim must be certified to the NSF/ANSI 305 Organic Personal Care Standard.
  4. Products listing an organic ingredient in the ingredients disclosure must be certified to the USDA NOP standard.

Manufacturers using this organic claim have until August 1, 2010, to submit their plans for compliance, and until June 1, 2011, to be in full compliance.

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