Coming Clean Campaign – false organics and who’s being called out

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Some well known beauty companies are being put on the chopping block by the Coming Clean Campaign for being deceptive about how eco-friendly they really are, and falsely marketing themselves as “certified organic”

There are many different certifications, with varying sets of criteria. The USDA Organic Certification is one of the strictest certifications – it instills great trust in consumers and, well, some companies are riding on that.

The following brands might market their products as “organic,” but they don’t have enough organic ingredients to be USDA certified, and they use ingredients that would never be allowed in USDA certified products.

So, who’s being called out?

The Coming Clean Campaign has published their list of companies using dodgy marketing tactics and misleading consumers – and they are asking them to “come clean!”

Here it is – the Coming Clean Campaign’s Naughty List:

  • Avalon “Organics”
  • Desert Essence “Organics”
  • Earth’s Best “Organic”
  • Giovanni “Organic”
  • Goodstuff “Organics”
  • Head “Organics”
  • Jason “Pure, Natural & Organic”
  • Kiss My Face “Certified Organic Botanticals”
  • Nature’s Gate “Organics”
  • Physicians Formula “Organic” Wear
  • Stella McCartney “100% Organic”

But, I bought one of those in an organic shop! 

The problem is that sometimes even retailers aren’t aware! In 2008, the famous Whole Foods Market was called out for allegedly selling natural body care and household cleaning products that contained high levels of 1,4-dioxane – a chemical known to cause cancer in animals – while failing to warn consumers. By 2010, Whole Foods Market had implemented new stricter requirements for its suppliers, but Singapore is still unregulated, so we have to keep our eyes open!

So what are they doing wrong?

On cosmetics labels, words like ‘herbal’, ‘natural’ and even ‘organic’ have no legal definition. Than means you can put just about anything in a bottle and call it natural. So some of these “organic” products use synthetic and petrochemical compounds as the main cleansing ingredients and preservatives.

Additionally, a product can contain some organic ingredients, but that doesn’t make it is a USDA-certified organic product. Containing ‘certified organic’ ingredients and being ‘certified organic’ are two entirely different things and likely where a good portion of the confusion lies.

Does a product have to be certified to be good?

No! Certified organic products are not the only “good” products. The process of obtaining certification is lengthy and expensive. So some really great, natural products use organic ingredients, but either cannot afford the certification or choose not to go that route – and this doesn’t make their product any less good. But, and this is key, when a company knowingly misleads consumers into thinking they are following the standards set for a strict certification – well then, that’s bad.

What do we do?

I’m not going to ask you to boycott these companies. That is not what this is about – I am using this as a way to learn. Next time you are out and spot one of these brands, take a close look at their label and find the deception. Does it read ‘certified organic’ on the front, but then not bear a seal? Or does it claim to be ‘all natural’ but use synthetic chemicals and petrochemicals? Maybe this can be a way for all of us to better train our eyes!

Are you really upset and want to boycott them! Go ahead – but also, a good place to start is writing a letter to the Health Sciences Authority [hsa.gov.sg] and ask them what they are doing about dodgy cosmetics marketing themselves as natural or organic. There’s no reason why you can’t speak to retailers also. If there is a particular product that you’ve become aware of – ask them if they too are aware and whether they will stop selling these products falsely labeled as organic.

It can get very tricky! Here are some resources I often refer to:

Let’s end this on a happy note! Here are some of the brands on the Coming Clean Campaigns Good List:

Look for these brands around Singapore and let me know where you spot them!

[image credit: smartlifeways.com]

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