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USDA launches biobased certification for skin care and other products

By Katie Bird , 20-Jan-2011

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched a certification program for products made with renewable, biological material and consumer goods carrying the label are expected this spring.

The biobased certification and label is part of the USDA’s BioPreferred program which was set up in 2002 to drive the purchase and use of biobased products both within the federal government and in the commercial market.

Valid for use with personal care products, such as lip and hand care, as well as household cleaning products and construction materials, the logo is expected to hit retail shelves within the first half of 2011.

Informed purchasing decisions

According to USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, the idea is for the logo to be recognisable to consumers who will use it to make informed purchasing decisions.

“Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in making educated purchasing choices for their families,” she said.

Merrigan did note that although the logo may be visible on shelves in the not too distant future, it may take some time before it is understood fully by consumers.

“It will take some time to register with the American public, as we have seen that with the USDA organic seal,” she said, before adding the educational efforts including promotional campaigns from companies using the logo, may be needed.

Threshold of biobased content

In order to qualify for the logo, the product must have biobased content above a set threshold.

Although this has been set for the start of the program at 25 percent for the majority of finished products, Merrigan said this was not the final word on the thresholds.

“There was some debate, internal and external, about what should be the magic content level, some would like it higher, some lower, what we tried to do was set a standard where we thought it was a achievable by a significant part of the industry and yet was pushing people to increase their biobased content,” Merrigan said.

Over time, as the industry evolves, this may change, much like with organic products, she added.

Incentive for the private sector

For Merrigan, the ultimate aim behind the label is to provide an incentive for the private sector to use a higher level of biobased content: “We believe that this provides a market incentive, it allows people to differentiate their products in the marketplace, attract consumers and build marketing campaigns for consumers based on the biobased content of their products.”

Details on the biobased label can be found in the Federal Register .

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