Organic Consumers Association

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Consumer Groups File FTC Complaint Over Organic Label Fraud

Consumer groups want action on what they consider "rampant labeling fraud" on organic personal care products and cosmetics.

A complaint to be filed today with the Federal Trade Commission calls for companies that label products "organic" to follow the same strict U.S. Department of Agriculture standards set for food products. This means soaps, cosmetics and other items with organic claims must be made of natural, plant-based ingredients grown without the use of chemicals or preservatives.

"Organic is a very important term that consumers rely on. It has a very real legal meaning, but people are using it to deceive consumers," said Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association, which is filing the complaint with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.

Debra Stark, owner of Debra's Natural Gourmet in Concord, has pulled countless products from her shelves over the last two decades, taking a hit in order to provide customers with body care she believes is organic.

"Our customers rely on us to ask questions and choose products that are what they say they are," she said. "But it's fallen upon us to police ourselves."

According to the Environmental Working Group, cosmetics and body-care products contain potentially harmful ingredients - such as preservatives called parabens, linked to developmental reproductive toxicity in animal studies, and chemicals called phthalates, or plasticizers often found in fishing lures and caulk.

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