Organic Consumers Association

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Protesters Say Panic, Products Aren't Organic

Cell phone and pocket cameras whirred and clicked as a group of about a dozen protesters got the Natural Products Expo off to a raucous start Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center.

"If it doesn't have a seal, it ain't the real deal," the protesters chanted over a loudspeaker, as well as, "Expo Panic! These brands are not organic."

They also held up 5-foot signs mocking shampoo bottles of several brands.

The group, from the Organic Consumers Association, contends that shampoo, makeup and other personal care products - some on display inside the convention hall - lack a seal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would certify them as organic.

But even as the protesters attracted the attention of convention-goers, mostly retailers checking out new products they could potentially offer for sale on store shelves, they attracted the attention of the police as well.

The group's national director, Ronnie Cummins, said he was cited by Anaheim police for a misdemeanor involving illegal use of a sound system - and his portable sound system was taken away. He was given an April 28 court date to face the charge.

"We're the police over organic standards in the organic industry," Cummins said later. "We're making headway; a bunch of companies have reformulated their products. But there's still some of what we call organic imposters, waiting till they're forced absolutely to change."

Food labeled as organic generally is, he said, but standards lag among some personal-care product makers.

Others, including Fred Linder, president of New Hope Media which is running the event, said there are differences of opinion about which standards such companies should meet, but that the presence of the protesters shows the trade show is "alive and well."
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