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Responding to OCA's Coming Clean Campaign, Whole Foods' New Policy on Body Care Products

The subject of "organic" label claims on personal care and cosmetic products has been a controversial one, and certain manufacturers and groups have accused some products of "cheating" by using the "organic" claim deceptively. This document clarifies the issues, the USDA's role in regulating organic personal care products, and articulates Whole Foods Market's position on the issue.

We strongly support the development of Federal regulations for organic personal care products. The development of Federal organic standards for food has directly enabled increased consumer trust, substantial growth of the organic market, and integrity throughout the supply chain, and we believe that regulation of organic personal care products will result in the same benefits for consumers and the industry.

What's going on with organic personal care products?

At its November meeting, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a recommendation on "Solving the Problem of Mislabeled Personal Care Products," which recommended that the USDA's National Organic Standards explicitly recognize personal care products and allow them to be regulated just like food and agricultural products under the same standard. Whole Foods Market supports this recommendation, and delivered written and oral testimony to the board expressing our position on the issue (see comments below).

Does this mean that personal care products now must be certified? What happens next?

The NOSB does not directly set the regulation, but makes recommendations to the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP). This recommendation will now be passed to the NOP, which will review and analyze its feasibility and report back to the NOSB and the industry. Because it has the near‐unanimous support of the NOSB, we hope that the NOP will act quickly on this issue, and we will continue to monitor its progress and encourage it to do so.

What is the regulatory status of "Organic" personal care claims now?

Until there is a clear federal regulation, "organic" claims on personal care products are not explicitly regulated by the NOP. Personal care products may voluntarily become certified to the National Organic Standards, but the USDA does not have the authority to police "organic" claims on non‐certified personal care products. In our own stores, we intend to continue to closely examine all organic label claims to ensure that they are not misleading, and we will strongly encourage our suppliers who are making organic claims to pursue NOP certification.

What's WFM's position on the various "organic" claims on personal care products?

The "organic" claim on personal care products should have a very closely similar meaning to the "organic" claim used on food, which is regulated by the National Organic Program.

We acknowledge that there is currently regulatory confusion regarding the applicability and direction of the NOP standards as applied to personal care products. We encourage our suppliers to take the following steps for each type of organic claim: