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Misleading 'Organic' Claims Found in Thousands of Beauty Products
By Scott Faber
Cosmetics and other personal care product companies make questionable organic claims on thousands of products, a new Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis shows.
More than 5,000 products in EWG's Skin Deep database—about 20 percent of current product formulations rated on the site—use "organic" in the brand name, product name, product label or list of ingredients. But many of these products contained risky or hidden ingredients and received poor Skin Deep scores.
Skin Deep rates a product on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best score and 10 the worst score. Of the products that used the term organic, more than 250 received a score of 5 or above. Four products that used the term organic received a score of 9 or 10.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the use of "organic" when the claim is made on farm products. Cosmetics made primarily of farm products are allowed to carry the USDA Organic seal if 95 percent or more of the ingredients meet federal organic standards, and the remaining ingredients are on an approved ingredient list and were not produced using prohibited methods. Products labeled "made with organic ingredients" can have up to 30 percent non-organic ingredients but cannot use certain ingredients.
But there is no federal standard for "organic" cosmetics products derived from chemicals. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has primary authority over regulating cosmetics, makes little effort to police misleading "organic" cosmetics claims. Some private standards for "organic" cosmetics may allow the use of chemicals that are linked to health problems and restricted in other nations.
The proliferation of misleading claims and the absence of meaningful oversight has fueled enormous consumer confusion.
A new survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the USDA found that many consumers mistakenly believe personal care products with organic claims meet government standards, even though most do not. A large number of consumers also mistakenly believe personal care products with organic claims contain only organic ingredients.
At the same time, consumers are increasingly seeking and buying "organic" personal care products. Over the past decade, annual sales of "organic" non-food products, including personal care products, have soared from less than $1 billion to $3.6 billion. So far this year, consumers have searched Skin Deep for the word organic 150,000 times, an average of 538 searches per day.
Compounding the confusion is the fact that most consumers mistakenly believe cosmetics chemicals are reviewed and regulated by the FDA. A recent poll found that two-thirds of consumers believe cosmetics chemicals must be proven safe before they can be placed on the market. In fact, the FDA does not review cosmetics chemicals and has only banned nine chemicals for safety reasons.
Many other misleading claims are also made on personal care products, including "natural," "unscented" and "hypo-allergenic" claims. EWG found 21 products in Skin Deep that make "unscented" claims but also list "fragrance" in the ingredients.
The misuse of the term organic on cosmetics and other personal care products not only deceives consumers, but also undermines public trust in the USDA's organic standard. Unlike private standards, the USDA organic standard for food and farm products is set and enforced by the federal government, so it guarantees that a product was produced without dangerous chemicals.
What should be done? Today, the FTC and USDA will host a meeting to discuss whether consumer confusion about organic claims on cosmetics, cleaners and other non-food products warrants greater oversight of misleading claims, including greater attention from the FTC.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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Tyson Foods Recalls Nearly 70,000 Pounds of Chicken Strips After Customers Find ‘Fragments of Metal’
Tyson Foods is recalling approximately 69,093 pounds of frozen chicken strips because they may have been contaminated with pieces of metal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Thursday.
The affected products were fully-cooked "Buffalo Style" and "Crispy" chicken strips with a "use by" date of Nov. 30, 2019 and an establishment number of "P-7221" on the back of the package.
"FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers' freezers," the recall notice said. "Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase."
Environmental exposure to pesticides, both before birth and during the first year of life, has been linked to an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder, according to the largest epidemiological study to date on the connection.
The study, published Wednesday in BMJ, found that pregnant women who lived within 2,000 meters (approximately 1.2 miles) of a highly-sprayed agricultural area in California had children who were 10 to 16 percent more likely to develop autism and 30 percent more likely to develop severe autism that impacted their intellectual ability. If the children were exposed to pesticides during their first year of life, the risk they would develop autism went up to 50 percent.