Deadline Dec. 1: Tell the FTC to Stop Organic Fraud!
Wondering if those “organic dry cleaning” claims are real?
You’re not alone. Unlike food, which has to be certified to USDA organic standards in order to be labeled “organic,” non-food products often come with labels and/or advertising claims that falsely claim, or imply, organic.
Take action by December 1: Tell the FTC to Stop Organic Fraud! Fill in the form on this page to sign the petition or text 'FTC' to 97779.
Organic food has to be certified to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) standards. Non-food products may be certified to USDA Organic food standards, but the NOP doesn’t require certification and it doesn’t enforce against most false “organic” claims on personal care or textile products.
Ironically, the excuse the NOP uses for refusing to address non-food organic fraud is that the scope of its authority is limited to claims about agricultural ingredients. So, for example, the NOP can react if a shampoo label says it contains “organic” lavender when it actually contains conventional lavender. But, it can’t react if an “organic” shampoo is made entirely of synthetic ingredients.
Absurd? Yes. It’s also a license for marketers to lie. Brands can stick an organic agricultural ingredient in an otherwise synthetic product and call it “organic.” Or, they go all the way and call something that doesn’t contain any agricultural ingredients “organic.” That’s why we see so many “organic” drycleaners.
It isn’t always just about the label. Sometimes product makers make misleading advertising claims, that are just as deceiving as labels. Case in point: In August, OCA called out Colgate-Palmolive, owner of the Tom’s of Maine brand, for implying on its website that Tom’s toothpaste was “organic” even though it isn’t. With your help, we pressured the company to stop misleading consumers.
Who’s responsible for policing the non-food market?
Consumer pressure was enough to clean up the misleading claims about Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. But we can’t take on every product out there. So if consumers can’t stop the organic fraud on our own, and the NOP won’t do it, who will?
We want the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has launched an investigation into organic fraud, to clean up this confusing mess. After all, the FTC’s job is to “prevent business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers.” This new investigation by FTC officials could result in an update to the FTC’s Green Guides, which provide guidance to industry intended to drive misleading green washing out of the marketplace.
The FTC wants to hear from you about how to stop organic fraud. Please sign our petition and add your own comments before the FTC’s December 1 public comment deadline. You can also text 'FTC' to 97779 to sign.
More about false ‘organic’ claims
For food, it’s easy. Just look for the “USDA Organic” seal, allowed on products made from at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Under USDA regulations, products made from at least 70 percent organic ingredients can claim “made with organic ingredients.”
But when it comes to personal care and household cleaning products, it’s not so cut and dried. You can find USDA Certified Organic personal care and household cleaning products. The trouble is, only a handful of companies—Dr. Bronner’s, Terressentials and GreenShield lead the (very small) pack—sell products in these categories that meet USDA organic standards. For the most part, makers of personal care and household cleaning products don’t include agricultural ingredients. So they don’t fall under the NOP’s jurisdiction. This leaves them free to claim whatever they want, on labels and in advertising.
It gets worse for textile products, such as clothing and mattresses. The NOP has no organic certification program covering textile products—so how does a consumer know if that “organic” mattress is really organic? Your best bet is to look for the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) label. The NOP defers to this standard, which governs not only the organic agricultural ingredients, but also how they are processed into a finished product. Unfortunately, few companies are certified to the GOTS standard. The GOTS website lists 48 in the U.S., among them NaturePedic, MetaWear and Under the Nile.
Are there products you like that contain organic ingredients but aren’t certified to the USDA or GOTS standard? Contact the company, applaud them for using organic ingredients and ask them to go to the next level by developing products that can get certified organic.
The FTC is a lot more likely to continue its work on organic fraud, if consumer demand starts moving companies in the right direction.
Stop organic fraud! Sign our petition before the FTC’s December 1 public comment deadline.