Last week, the Organic Consumers Association and a select group of organic personal care brands filed an official complaint with the USDA against manufacturers that have been falsely promoting beauty and grooming products as "organic." The legal basis of their complaint is that these operations are in violation of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the National Organic Program. In advertising, labeling, and marketing products as organic when in fact they are not, these cosmetics manufacturers have been given the final slap on the wrist for hoodwinking reasonable consumers.

The band of certified organic brands along with the Organic Consumers Association are requesting a federal investigation into the ambiguous labeling practices of thirteen mainstream so-called organic brands.  At the same time, a new lawsuit has been filed in federal court, taking aim at companies in violation of the false advertising clause of the Lanham Act. Could this be the dawning of a new era when organic consumers are no longer ripped off?

First, a bit of background: The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a non-profit organization representing the interests of American consumers who purchase organic products. Its overarching goals are "health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy." In the past few years, this group has waged a "Coming Clean" campaign to educate the public about deceptive labeling practices in face and body products. After pressing the USDA to exert more sway over standards in the cosmetics industry, the OCA took its campaign a step further by instigating a consumer boycott of deceptively labeled brands.

The specific USDA-certified brands that have teamed up with the Organic Consumers Association to file the official complaint are Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, the nation's top-selling natural brand of liquid and bar soap, Intelligent Nutrients, a pet project in purity by the founder of Aveda, and Organic Essence, a pioneer in bio-degradable packaging. You might wonder why these companies would not just let sleeping dogs lie and get on with their own businesses rather than getting embroiled in a legal fracas. Well, each manufacturer in the rapidly growing organic care category has a vested interest in the practice and performance of its competitors. If certain companies misrepresent themselves to consumers and do not comply with the same regulations as the brands that can boast hard-earned organic stripes, they deserve to be held accountable.

Over the years, the efforts of the Organic Consumers Association and its allies have been thwarted time and again by the traditionally hands-off approach of the USDA's National Organic Program regarding the cosmetics industry. It seemed that no amount of lobbying would persuade the USDA to extend the stringent standards overseeing organic food to personal care products. Now, with increased staffing and funding allocated to the program under Obama's administration, the future of organic cosmetics is looking up.

The federal complaint was filed against the following manufacturers and product lines:

The Hain Celestial Group, Inc- makers of Jason “Pure, Natural & Organic" and “Avalon Organics” products

Kiss My Face Corporation- makers of “Kiss My Face Organic” products

Levlad, LLC- makers of “Nature’s Gate Organics” products

YSL Beauté, Inc- makers of “Stella McCartney CARE 100% Organic Active Ingredients” products

Giovanni Cosmetics, Inc- makers of “Giovanni Organic Cosmetics,” “Giovanni Organic Body Care” and “Giovanni Organic Hair Care” products

Cosway Company, Inc- makers of “Head Organics” products

Country Life, LLC- makers of “Desert Essence Organics” products

Szep Elet LLC- makers of “Ilike Organic Skin Care” products

Eminence Organic Skin Care, Inc- makers of “Eminence Organic Skin Care" products

Physicians’ Formula Holdings, Inc- makers of “Organic Wear” products

Surya Nature, Inc- makers of “Sapien Organic” products

Organic Bath Company- makers of “Organic Bath” and “Organic Baby’ products

Freeman Beauty Division- makers of “Freeman Goodstuff Organics” products

A few of the manufacturers under scrutiny have had it coming for years. We heard rumblings directed at Jason and Avalon long before they erupted in a full-blown battle. Needless to say, we were not pleased to find among the list of offending brands a detoxifying mask and sun cream, a well-liked face scrub, a favorite body wash, and a recommended hair spray from past reviews. It goes to show that you can't believe everything you read, whether it's buzz words on an item's packaging or tangible ingredients spelled out on the label. We do our best to sort through the rubbish to give you the honest truth.

An enlightening document, the full federal complaint outlines the exact ingredients in product examples from each offender and identifies how they infringe regulations. We owe it to our bodies and all the honorable organic brands out there to be educated consumers.