Avalon Organics goes organic
Earlier this month, Avalon, which is part of The Hain Celestial Group, announced its transition to the NSF/ANSI 305 Standard for Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients. The standard defines labeling and marketing requirements for cosmetics, oral care products, personal hygiene products and related personal care products that contain organic ingredients. Essentially, this voluntary standard doesn’t allow for companies that wish to receive the NSF label to get away with dishonest practices, such as marking product containers with “contains organic ingredients” when, in reality, only a small percentage of the ingredients are truly organic.
Products with the NSF seal of approval comply with several requirements, including limiting chemical inclusions and stating the exact percentage of organic content. To actually sport the NSF label, a product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients, in addition to meeting all the other NSF requirements. In the United States, the NSF comes second only to the USDA in terms of stringency of regulations; companies that are approved by NSF should certainly be commended for their honest labeling and relatively safe ingredients. And the USDA does not technically have specific standards for personal care products, so the NSF is filling a needed void.
The fact that all Avalon products now contain at least 70 % organic content, and that all of the company’s ingredients are approved by NSF is a drastic but lovely change from the direction Avalon was headed in over the past few years. In 2008, Marta wrote a post about Avalon being sued for including a carcinogen (1,4 dioxane) in its products and not disclosing the information. And nearly two years ago, Copley followed up on the Organic Consumers Association’s complaint to the USDA against The Hain Celestial Group, among others, for falsely promoting beauty products as “organic.”
In a press release announcing Avalon’s transition to the NSF Standard earlier this month, it was also announced that Avalon had “been working to meet this standard for several years.” I’m guessing that legal action and plain old bad publicity had something to do with Avalon changing its ways. While it would be nice for companies to do the right thing without any prodding, it’s exciting to know that we as consumers have a voice, and that we do make a difference.
After all, a woman named Rosminah Brown walked into Whole Foods one day in 2009, purchased some nice, organic Hain Celestial products, only to find that she had been duped into buying things with mostly inorganic ingredients. The Jason product she bought, which was labeled “Pure, Natural & Organic” only contained one, single organic ingredient. The company itself admitted that aloe was the only organic ingredient, and that it wasn’t even a prominent one. The Brown et al v. The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. suit also cited Baby Avalon Organics Silky Cornstarch Baby Powder as a misleading offender (marketed as organic, but containing only two organic ingredients).
Clearly, consumers do have a say in what goes into our personal care products. It is unclear what will happen to the class action lawsuit now that Avalon has gone organic (for real, this time), but it looks like The Hain Celestial Group is in good company. The Center for Environmental Health found, in purchasing products from various drug and grocery stores in California’s Bay Area, that 26 companies (including Hain Celestial) falsely advertise personal care products as being organic.
What are your thoughts on Avalon’s transition – did you use the company’s products before? If not, will you now?