This week, Whole Foods announced that it will be making it easier for customers to determine whether or not beauty products they purchase in the store are actually organic.
The company decided to institute new guidelines in June of 2010 after realizing that while organic designations on food items are fairly policed by federal agencies, organic body care claims lack any real oversight.
“We saw a lot of products that were playing off the word ‘organic’ and using different terms that implied they were organic, with very little or no organic ingredients in the product,” says Jeremiah McElwee, Whole Foods’ global coordinator of personal care products.
Under the new system, brands that use the word “organic” anywhere on their packaging will have to meet one of four requirements and prove that they have met them via third-party certification.
For example, if a brand says it’s “made with organic ingredients,” it will have to provide a certificate issued by a USDA-accredited certifier that shows it meets the USDA’s National Organic Program standard for Made With Organic (>70%) products.
Since the guidelines were announced, Whole Foods has been working with beauty and personal-care brands to help them meet the standards (which explains the two-year time gap), and McElwee says that while the process has been lengthy and headache-inducing, very few brands have been unable to make the necessary changes.
Popular natural brand Aubrey Organics even changed its name to just “Aubrey” after being unable to get the percentage of its ingredients above the organic threshold needed in time. (It’s currently working to increase the organic content.)
In the end, McElwee says, the changes will allow consumers to be more informed about the products they’re putting on, not just in, their bodies. “We really thought that this was a common sense approach,” he says. “We talk to consumers every day, and we’re organic consumers, too. This is what we want, for ourselves and for our stores.” —Lisa Elaine Held