Search OCA:
Get Local!

Find Local News, Events & Green Businesses on OCA's State Pages:

OCA News Sections

Organic Consumers Association

Comparing USDA & EU 'Organic', 'Made with Organic' & 'Natural' Standards on Body Care Products

A 5-Star Comparison & Ranking of U.S. and European "Organic" [1], "made with Organic" [2], and "Natural" [3], Personal Care Standards
Prepared by David Bronner, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

USDA National Organic Program (US Primarily; Int'l Secondarily Esp. Asia)
***** (5 stars)  Reason:  95% minimum organic content for outright "Organic" claims, 70% for "made with Organic" claims. No synthetic preservatives or petrochemicals in cleansing ingredients.  All major cleansing and moisturizing ingredients are made from organic not conventional or petrochemical material.  Prohibits hydrogenation, sulfation and synthetic preservation of ingredients. Rigorously enforced compliance.  This certification reflects basic organic consumer criteria for organic personal care; ie. what organic consumers expect when they see "Organic" on a personal care label.

***/ (3.5 stars) Reason:  only few nature-identical synthetic preservatives allowed; no petrochemicals in major cleansing ingredients; appropriately limits label claims to "made with organic [specified ingredients]" due to allowances for processes like hydrogenation and sulfation; 70% organic minimum.  The NSF standard is basically a responsible compromise worked out between organic consumers/producers and the cosmetic industry, where the outright "USDA Organic" product category is not messed around with, that reflects core organic consumer criteria that "organic" products not include hydrogenated, sulfated or synthetically preserved ingredients.  Instead, the additional allowances for processes like hydrogenation, sulfation and synthetic preservation are restrained to the "made with Organic" claim space for personal care under NSF.

Soil Association (UK)
*** (3 stars) Reason: Requires 95% organic content for an outright "Organic" product claim and 70% content for a "made with Organic" claim.  But not as high as USDA or NSF because allows certain synthetic preservatives like Phenoxyethanol even in "Organic" products, and Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a primary cleanser that is composed in part from petrochemical material that SA allows.  But SA does prohibit sulfation and "generic" hydrogenation of ingredients.  A pretty decent standard, much better than Ecocert or Natrue as far as European standards. 

BDIH (Germany/Europe Primarily; Int'l secondarily)
**/ (2.5 stars) Reason:  Natural only (No Organic requirements).  But even though it does not have any organic content requirements, and is only a "natural" standard, it disallows any petrochemicals in cleansing ingredients, and allows only a few nature-identical synthetic preservatives.  Most importantly, it does not certify any bogus "organic" claims.  Allows sulfation, hydrogenation and certain synthetic preservation of ingredients.

Natural Products Association/NPA (US)
**/ (2.5 stars) Reason: Natural only (No Organic requirements).  Very similar to BDIH, except not quite as rigorous in phase 1, when there's tempoarary allowance for synthetic quaternary compounds (hair conditioners) and synthetic preservatives, but these sunset by May 1, 2010, when NPA becomes more or less completely identical to BDIH. Most importantly NPA does not certify any bogus organic claims.

Whole Foods Premium Standard (US)
** (2 stars) Reason:  Natural/Safety Only (No Organic requirements).  While it allows some petrochemicals in cleansing ingredients and synthetic preservatives like phenoxyethanol and ethylhexylglycerin, it prohibits the most problematic ingredients as far as safety issues, and importantly, does not mislead consumers in certifying bogus organic claims.

OASIS (US Primarily; Int'l Secondarily)
/ (0.5 star) Reason:  Most permissive US standard as far as synthetic preservative allowances, including phenoxyethanol and ethylhexylglycerin, yet purports to certify outright "Organic" product claims at only 85% organic content, with no requirement that main cleansing ingredients such as sulfated surfactants be made from organic material.  OASIS is a greedy overreach of the mainstream cosmetic industry that wants to roll over basic organic consumer criteria.  It is a more permissive version of the NSF standard, and instead of appropriately restricting to only "made with Organic" claims, certifies bogus outright "Organic" claims. Allows sulfation, hydrogenation and synthetic preservation of ingredients. Highly misleading to organic consumers looking for organic personal care.

NATRUE (Germany/Europe)
/ (0.5 star) Reason:  NATRUE also has a relatively low organic % content requirement for its misleading "Organic" category.  Except for Ecocert, NATRUE is the most permissive standard for "Organic" personal care.  Allows sulfation, hydrogenation and certain synthetic preservation of ingredients.  If NATRUE simply certified "Made with Organic" or "Natural" claims it would be fine, but like OASIS represents the same greedy overreach of the cosmetic industry for outright "Organic" claims on products that violate basic organic consumer criteria:  that organic personal care be free of sulfated, hydrogenated and synthetically-preserved ingredients.

Ecocert (France/Europe Primarily; Int'l Secondarily)
0 (zero stars) Reason:  Ecocert is both the most permissive and misleading standard out there, allowing various petrochemicals in main cleansing ingredients as well as synthetic preservatives no one else does, yet certifies outright "Organic" product claims on products with as low as 10% organic content. Highly misleading to organic consumers.

[1]   An outright "Organic" product claim represents the most organic and/or least processed content, with the most stringent requirements:  Eg. "Organic Lotion"

[2]   A product "made with Organic [specified ingredients]" claim represents less organic and/or more processed content than outright "Organic" product claims, with less stringent standards:  Eg.  "Lotion Made with Organic Coconut Oil & Aloe"

[3]   A "Natural" product claim has no organic content requirements, and generally allows intensive processing of ingredients allowed under "made with Organic" but not outright "Organic" claim rules. Eg.  "Natural Lotion"


For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords:

post Oct 13 2008, 03:03 PM

What about Australian Certified Organic (ACO) and Biological Farmers of Australia? You did not include them in your article. They both have stricter standards above the USDA organic.

post Today, 10:05 AM

Except USDA standard, all other standards above mentioned are made for body care. So, how could david bronner compare them in a unfair level? Can you compare high school and university together??

USDA NOP is for organic food standard, Germany, Italy, Japan and Australia...etc. all have organic food standard, Ecocert has organic food standard as well, why bronner didn't compare them in this way?

Becides, how impartial this rating can be?! since bronner is the owner of body care company that has its line certified USDA and also highly involved NSF standard setting up, which happen to be the top 2 in his point of view......