Greenwash of the Month: Does My Hair Look “Organic”? Mislabeled Organic Personal Care Products

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When you buy shampoo, lotions, toothpastes or other personal care items and you see the word “organic” on the package, you probably expect the product is made with mostly organic ingredients. After all, that’s why you buy these products, which are safer for you, your family, and for the farm workers and rural communities where the organic ingredients are produced.

So you might be disappointed to learn that some organic companies, including several major brands available at leading retailers like Target, Walgreens, Whole Foods and others, are using the word “organic” on products that contain few, or in some cases, no organic ingredients. Even worse, some of the products contain chemicals linked to potential health risks, including cancer, hormone disruption, allergies and more.

A recent investigation by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found many mislabeled “organic” personal care products. Some of the products are made by leading national brands, including Kiss My Face and Jason (a brand made by the natural foods giant Hain Celestial).

Several other products are  hair and body care products marketed to African American and Latino consumers. Some of these products are marketed as “organic” products for young girls, yet they contain no organic ingredients. One product, a “Kids Organics by Africa’s Best Hair Softening System” contains chemical ingredients linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and asthma. A warning label on this “organic” product reads, “Keep away from eyes. Can cause blindness.”

Blindness?  I’m guessing that’s not among the benefits most consumers are after when they shell out the extra cash for organic products.

Organic food labeling is strictly regulated: multi-ingredient foods labeled “made with organic” ingredients on the front of the package must contain at least 70% organic ingredients (95% if they are simply labeled as “organic”), and are prohibited to include most synthetic ingredients. But regulators have not enforced this common sense law for cosmetics and personal care products, even though California has had a similar law for these products since 2003.

CEH is taking legal action under California law to end this organic mislabeling. We believe that consumers deserve truthful organic labels, and that companies who are doing the right thing by using organic ingredients should not have the trust in their labeling undermined by organic phonies.

You can take action and help end organic mislabeling: tell Hain CEO Irwin Simon to stop mislabeling the company’s personal care products, and abide by California law. Organic on a label should be a claim that consumers can understand and trust – take action today!

And, you can see the full list of companies using improper organic labels here; if you have purchased products from these companies that you believe were mislabeled and want more information on your potential legal rights, contact charles@ceh.org.

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