Organic Consumers Association

Tell Tom’s of Maine: Your Toothpaste Is Not Organic. Stop Lying to Consumers!

IMPORTANT UPDATE: No need to sign! Tom's of Maine, and its majority owner, Colgate-Palmolve, responded to our complaint and removed the offending webpage. Thanks to everyone who took action!

Here's the original alert:

Tom’s of Maine, that homespun brand from the quaint little state of Maine, wouldn’t lie to you about its toothpaste, would it?

Yes, it would. It turns out that the popular brand, now owned by Colgate-Palmolive, is lying to you about quite a few things, including the biggest lie: that Tom’s of Maine toothpaste is organic (it’s not).

TAKE ACTION: Tell Tom’s of Maine: Your toothpaste is not organic. Stop lying to consumers!

If you’re a conscious consumer who cares about everything you put in your mouth, including toothpaste, you might at some point have gone online to search for organic toothpaste. If you did, you might have been woefully misled.Guess what happened when we googled "organic toothpaste?" Several Tom's of Maine toothpaste products popped up. Strange, given that Tom’s of Maine doesn’t even use organic ingredients in its toothpaste, much less does the brand offer a certified organic toothpaste.

So why did Tom's of Maine show up in our searches for “organic toothpaste”?

Because on its company website, under the title “How to Identify Organic Toothpaste,” Tom’s makes a number of false and misleading claims clearly intended to imply that its own brand of toothpaste is organic, even though it isn’t. (Here’s the webpage. We also archived it here on August 10, 2016, in case the company removes the lies after it hears from consumers and OCA’s lawyers).

Here’s how Tom’s, wrongfully and intentionally, lies to consumers.

1.    The company says that “[o]ne problem that consumers face. . . is that these USDA Organic standards do not apply to personal care products like oral care products or cosmetics.”  This statement is absolutely false. The standards for certification of products as “organic” or “made with organic ingredients” are set forth in 7 C.F.R. Part 205.  In fact, numerous personal care products are labeled “Organic” or “Made with organic ingredients” in accordance with NOP certification, including certain toothpaste products.

2.    After stating that “consumers need to read labels carefully to make sure products labeled as organic actually are organic,” suggests that consumers consider pairing an unflavored toothpaste “with a mouthwash like the new Colgate®Total® Lasting White. . . which coats your teeth with an invisible shield against the stains that often tempt people to use complex bleaching agents.”  The implication of this statement is that this Colgate product is “actually organic,” which of course it is not. This Colgate mouthwash product contains not a single certified organic ingredient. In fact, it contains chemical compounds which would not be permitted to be present in any product labeled organic or made with organic ingredients.

3.    The company suggests that “[a]nother way consumers can gain confidence in organic products is by seeking the approval of dental associations,” by looking for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. That statement is blatantly false and misleading, as the American Dental Association does not, and does not purport to, certify any product as “organic.” The ADA Seal appears on numerous dentifrice products which are not organic, do not claim to be, and could never lawfully be marketed as such, including, of course, all of Colgate’s toothpaste and mouthwash products carrying the ADA Seal.

4.    The company says that “Tom’s of Maine, for example, is the only organic toothpaste brand to receive the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which is known worldwide as a standard of quality, safety and product efficacy . . .”  In fact, Tom’s of Maine does not make or sell any organic toothpaste or any toothpaste labeled “made with organic ingredients.”

5.    After the misstatements about Tom’s of Maine and the ADA Seal, the company says that, “In addition, the Organic Consumers Association… is working hard to protect consumers through a public awareness drive called the Coming Clean Campaign. This campaign strives to separate true organic from false advertisers.”  True.

But again, Tom’s of Maine toothpaste is not organic, and OCA has never endorsed it. By associating OCA’s name with Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, the company intentionally implies that not only is its toothpaste organic, but that OCA endorses it.

Tom’s of Maine built its reputation on being an independent, honest, ethical (no animal testing) brand. But in 2006, Colgate-Palmolive bought a controlling 84-percent interest in the company.

And we all know what happens when the greedy, unethical (Colgate tests its products on animals) Big Guys buy up the little guys—nothing good.

We don’t like being used. We also don’t think it’s fair to brands like Dr. Bronner’s, which does contain organic ingredients, that Tom’s of Maine can lie about its toothpaste being organic when it doesn’t even contain organic ingredients. And we especially don’t like it when brands falsely imply their products are “organic.”

So our lawyers sent Colgate-Palmolive president, chairman and CEO Ian M. Cook a “cease and desist” letter asking that the company stop lying to consumers, and remove OCA’s name (and phony “endorsement”) from the Tom’s of Maine website.

But Mr. Cook needs to hear from you, too!

TAKE ACTION: Tell Tom’s of Maine: Your toothpaste is not organic. Stop lying to consumers!

After you sign the alert, please post on the Tom’s of Maine facebook page. Then call the company to complain (212-310-2000), and tweet at @TomsofMaine. Use the hashtag #notorganic