Are 'Organic' Claims Harming the Industry?

Dear Editor,

Consumers have become confused by the words organic and natural. Unfortunately, some cosmetic and personal care marketers have played a significant role in creating this confusion. The fact is, most substances on Earth are "natural” and the vast majority of those containing carbon are "organic." Some marketers use these words incorrectly and oftentimes inappropriately, and I am concerned this is harming our industry.

In my opinion, telling consumers that products are safer because they are organic or natural is nonsense and not based on scientific fact. I could fill many pages of Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine with examples of potentially harmful substances that are “100% natural and all organic.” This type of marketing can lead consumers to erroneously believe that products that do not make such claims may contain unsafe ingredients and could be dangerous to their health, which is clearly not the case.

Marketing is supposed to be “the truth well told.” What has happened? Scientific truth should be able to coexist with product marketing. If it cannot, then we should collectively ask why. I believe an important step has been the development of meaningful and truthful industry organic standards to help level the playing field and put referees in place to ensure everyone is playing fair. We should all work to educate the public with the truth.

The first truth we should teach the consumer is that organic and/or natural claims do not make cosmetic or personal care products safe; they are already among the safest consumer products available. Appealing names and cool-sounding terms do not make products safe. Instead, we rely on knowledgeable chemists and technicians, ingredient and product safety testing, GMP and quality control, as well as useful warnings and directions. These measures ensure consumers are able to safely enjoy using the cosmetic products that our industry produces.

--Doug Schoon
President, Schoon Scientific and Regulatory Consulting LLC

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