The Soil Association speaks out against organic imposters

Yesterday’s article in the Daily Mail names and shames Boots and Nivea for making false organic claims.

Reporting on recent research done by the UK Soil Association, they examined products from a number of beauty brands making organic claims and found many to contain synthetic ingredients such as methylisothiazolinone (a particularly nasty preservative).

There are currently no legal rules for organic labelling in cosmetics, and some companies take advantage of this loophole.

Peter Melchett, of the Soil Association says: “the many companies that strive to meet the standards are being undermined by those that take shortcuts and make misleading claims.”

Customers are cheated in two ways. Firstly, they are duped into buying products based on organic credentials that don’t exist.

Secondly, they pay more for organic products because they cost more to produce. So it is tempting for companies to charge the premium but use cheaper non-organic ingredients.

In the case of the Boots oil mentioned in the article, they claimed the product was 100% organic when it wasn’t. Boots responded to the criticism by saying “any problems with its Botanics range were related to labelling and not the products themselves.”

Quite right – but they’re totally missing the point in this defence. The problem is that they falsely claimed the product was 100% organic – no one was suggesting the product was bad or dangerous.

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is increasingly being sucked into this moral vacuum and is now regulating organic marketing claims.

In October 2012, Boots (again) was told not to do any further advertising for their Little Me Organics (ASA Summary Ruling) line without a disclaimer informing customers the products weren’t actually organic. You can read my earlier post on this here.

In January 2013 Neom Luxury Organics (ASA Summary Ruling) were told “not to use ‘organic’ in relation to their products unless they held robust evidence.”  This ruling has implications far beyond the candles complained about.

It raises the bar for organic claims. In the past companies thought it enough to claim organic status by being really natural or using the odd organic ingredient. The ASA rulings mean you need third party verification from a reputable organic trade standard such as the Soil Association or ECOCERT.

I expect (and hope) organic beauty products will become legally regulated at some point in the future – as with food. Anyone remember the  organic eggs scam? It was a national scandal and the guy went to jail!

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