US aims for organic cosmetics standard

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Personal care products, Organic food

As pressure grows on international cosmetics companies to use more
environmentally-friendly ingredients and packaging, a move by the
US-based Organic Trade Association (OTA) to collaborate with
NSF International
on efforts to develop a national organic personal care standard
looks set to make an industry precedent.

"OTA has made a strategic decision to collaborate with NSF International because NSF's consensus standards development process is accredited by the highly reputable American National Standards Institute (ANSI),"​ according to Katherine DiMatteo, OTA's executive director. "Standards accredited by ANSI are historically recognised and referenced by federal agencies including the US Food and Drug Administration."

DiMatteo added that NSF's standards development procedure should allow a full and open due process, including opportunities for comments and consensus building, by all interested parties. OTA's role in the process would be to bring organic industry expertise, particularly that of its Personal Care Organic Standards Task Force, to a joint committee that NSF would form to deliberate on and develop such a standard. The OTA task force has been working on developing organic standards for personal care products since March 2001.

Questions concerning the status of organic personal care products came to a head in April when the US Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program (NOP) issued a guidance statement that excluded personal care products and other nonfood products from the scope of national organic standards. Although USDA Secretary Ann Veneman in late May directed NOP to rescind this document, it is anticipated USDA will eventually remove some nonfood products, including organic personal care products, from the scope of NOP. As a result, NSF International, which specialises in public health and safety, has announced its intent to develop an American National Standard for organic personal care products.

Numerous OTA member companies have worked hard and invested heavily in developing certified organic personal care products on the basis of a 2002 policy from USDA that indicated such products could be certified under national organic standards. The April document, however, threatened the value of their investments, and forced renewed calls for a standard that offers assurance about the organic status of such products.

On an international basis, the cosmetics industry has been coming under increasing pressure to implement more environmentally-friendly standards for the cosmetics industry. In Europe there is currently no European Union (EU) legislation relating to the certification of organic ingredients for cosmetics and personal care products, as existing EU standards only relate to products that are from an organic production system and intended for human consumption.

For the time being it is national bodies in Europe that are shouldering the responsibility for organics legislation in Europe. The UK Soil Association and France's Ecocert have been leading the way in implementing industry standards, but as the number of personal care products featuring wholly organic ingredients continue to grow each year, the need for European-wide legislation grows more pressing.

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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