Is organic the only option?

Is the organic seal the holy grail that we should look for when we are strolling down the grocery store aisle or makeup stand in order to make sure we are buying products that are truly toxin free? Buying organic is always a safe bet, but there are other certifications to look for when shopping for anything from groceries to makeup or even cleaning products. 
Most of know by now that European nations, and several other countries around the world, have a leg up on us in terms of clean living. Organic is actually an American term and is regulated by the National Organic Program, housed in the United States Department of Agriculture, which means that international agencies certifying the quality of products often have the same, or even higher, standards than our organic label. Below are some of those certifying agencies, their regulations that products must meet in order to gain their seal of approval, and the symbol to look for when assessing the quality of products while shopping. 
Image result for organic sealLets start with a review of the organic label. The USDA National Organic Program defines organic as, food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.” 
There are different levels of organic, and the USDA has created three different categories or organic labeling: 
·         100% Organic=the product was made with 100% organic ingredients  
·         Organic=the product was made with at least 95% organic ingredients 
·         Made with Organic Ingredients=the product was made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients and the remaining 30% cannot be made with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) 
In other words, any product that displays the certified organic seal means that the product you are buying is made with organic ingredients and cannot be produced with or exposed to antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, synthetic ingredients, GMOs, or radiation. This also means that anything without the organic seal, can, legally, contain these elements that are detrimental to your health. Scary! 
Image result for ecocert labelEcocert ICO is a certification body first established in France in 1991. It offers a variety of certification services in the organic and fair trade industries across multiple countries, and has subsidiaries in Portugal, Colombia, Canada, Ecuador, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Brasil, Beijing, China, Spain, the United States, and more. They have established standards for natural and organic cosmetics, perfumes, cleaning products, ecological outdoor areas, fair trade, textiles, and even eco-sustainable golf courses across the world. Most recently, they have developed a standard for climate and biodiversity commitments. Ecocert has built a strong expertise in organic certification internationally and is therefore qualified to issue or renew organic certification nationally, such as the organic status according to USDA regulations, as well as issue international organic certifications, such as the European Union Organic Regulations or the Japan Agricultural Standards, which helps with the import and export of organic products. 
Since they have several different sets of standards for different industries in different countries, they have a few different seals that can adorn the products you find at the store. However, all of the products that are ECOCERT approved must: 
  1. Use ingredients derived from renewable resources and be manufactured by environmentally friendly processes. This means that the products are free of: 
  • GMOs, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicon, PEG, synthetic perfumes and dyes, animal-derived ingredients (with the exception of ingredients that are naturally produced by animals such as milk or honey)
  • Packaging of ECOCERT products must also be biodegradable or recyclable 
2. As with the organic label, a minimum amount of natural ingredients must come from organic farming and the site must be approved through regular audits performed by an ECOCERT auditor. 
  • The natural and organic cosmetic label requires a minimum of 95% of all plant-based ingredients or 10% of all ingredients by weight must come from organic farming 
  • The natural cosmetic label requires a minimum of 50% of all plant-based ingredients and at least 5% of ingredients by weight come from organic farming
Image result for AIAB labelAIAB is the Italian Association for Organic Agriculture. This entity certifies organic products and companies across several categories including food, detergents, farms, cosmetics, stores, and bio-fibers. Their website boasts that they “follow more restrictive disciplines than European bio-legislation” and that companies or products that meet their standards and voluntarily join AIAB give greater guarantee to the consumer. The AIAB regulations follow organic and EU legislation standards, as well as listing ingredients that are and are not allowed. For all AIAB products, the following best practices are monitored: 
  • Only vegetable non-allergic and irritating raw materials are permitted
  • Completely GMO free
  • No animal testing 
  • Agricultural and livestock products must originate from certified organic farming 
  • Ecologically unstable materials–in the product or packaging–are not allowed 
Image result for BDIH certified natural cosmetics sealProducts that display the BDHI “Certified Natural Cosmetics” seal are approved by the non-profit Association of Industries and Traiding firm. This association, located in Mannheim, Germany, has approved and regulated cosmetics, food supplements, nutritional foods, over-the-counter medications, and medical devices. Their goal is to satisfy the consumer’s expectations of safe and ecologically sound products. In 1996, BDHI worked with leading natural cosmetic producers to develop comprehensive guidelines for their certification, which include: 
  • Raw materials used as ingredients must come from certified organic farming
  • Materials from animal origin are allowed only if they are naturally produced by an animal (ex. Milk and Honey) 
  • Collection of raw material ingredients must disturb nature as little as possible, with particular care to protect endangered species
  • Animal testing is not permitted
  • GMO are strictly rejected 
  • Transformation of raw materials into cosmetics is to be accomplished with care and limited chemical processing 
  • Renewable and biodegradable materials are preferred 
  • Environmentally-friendly production methods and packaging are expected 
  • Synthetic dyes, fragrances, ethoxylated raw materials, silicone, paraffin or other petroleum derived products are not allowed 
  • Only “nature-identical” preservatives, such as salicylic acid and it salts may be used if necessary and must be listed on the packaging
  • Natural fragrances that comply with ISO 9235* are allowed. Fragrances of biotechnological origin may also be used.
  • Treatment of raw materials of plant or animal origin or edn products with ionizing radiation is not allowed
Ccpb is an inspection and certification organization for both food and nonfood products involved in organic and ecofriendly production. The ccpb website details an impressive resume of affiliations, stating that: 
CCPB has all the Authorizations & Accreditations. We count Italian Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Policy (MIPAAF), the accreditation for Regulation CE 834/07 for organic agriculture, the accreditation in compliance with rule UNI CEI EN 45011 and the authorizations in Usa, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden. In UK, Germany, France, Norway, Brasil and South Korea, CCPB offers inspection services for national organic standards. The European Commission has also recognized CCPB as equivalent certification body (according to Reg CE 834/07), in China, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Philippines, Rep. of San Marino, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Mali.
Image result for ccpb sealCCPB is a partner of IFOAM “International Federation of Organic Farming”, EOCC (European Organic Certifiers Council) and Quavera. With the merger of CCPB and IMC (Mediterranean institute of certification), CCPB is leader of 5 certification companies all over Mediterranean area and authorised by their respective agriculture ministries: IMC Egypt, IMC Tunisia, IMC Turkey, IMC Lebanon and IMC Morocco.
Ccpb runs in accordance with most important international standards regarding organic, toxin free products, and is, like ECOCERT, a USDA National Organic Program (NOP) certifying agent. Their extensive production guidelines are in accordance with a comprehensive list of other certifying agencies, and can be viewed here.
Image result for Cosmebio sealThe Cosmebio seal is a stamp of approval from the French Association of Organic and Natural Cosmetics, which belongs to the European Cosmetics Standards Working Group–a group of seven organizations working together to harmonize the standards for organic cosmetics. Their “ultimate objective” is to safeguard, in the area of cosmetics, the welfare of the environment and of people.” Products with the cosmebio seal can be trusted to be organic and adhere to the following principals:   
  • promote the use of products from organic agriculture, and respect biodiversity;
  • use natural resources responsibly, and respect the environment;
  • use processing and manufacturing that are clean and respectful of human health and the environment;
  • integrate and develop the concept of “Green Chemistry”
The Cosmebio standard requires that: 

Image result for natrue label

  • water must comply with hygienic standards
  • minerals must come from natural origin and can only be modified with simple chemical reactions, which they term “green chemistry”
  • no ingredients can be a GMO
  • only a limited list of preservatives are allowed and are reviewed regularly 
  • clear labeling and product advertising with no misleading claims or omissions


The NaTrue seal represents certification by The International Natural and Organic cosmetics Association, is an international non-profit organization  based in Brussels. Their goal is to “ensure availability of quality natural and organic cosmetic products for consumers world wide.” 
Thousands of products world wide adorn the NaTrue label, signifying that those products have been confirmed to be truly natural or organic. NaTrue has a rigorous list of requirements that must be met for certification, which can be viewed on their website.  (Their website was down at the time of this post). 
Image result for 100% organicUnfortunately, many of the products certified by these other agencies are not as readily available in the United States. For US residents, the most common and safest seal to look for when shopping remains the organic seal, especially the 100% organic mark. If you would like to learn more about how to get your hands on foods and other products, cosmetics especially, that are certified by NaTrue, ECCOCERT, and other agencies listed above, look out for my next post about where you can find stores and websites, such as Ecco-verde, where you can purchase these certified brands


*In general, ISO 9235 defines natural aromatic raw materials as being physically obtained from plants using distillation, expression and extraction. Synthetically reconstituted essential oils, synthetic nature-identical ingredients and intentionally chemically modified natural raw materials (e.g. chemical acetylation of essential oil) cannot be used in fragrancecompounds that are described as being natural.

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