I thought I'd do a post about what it means to have an organic product certified and go through different organic certification organizations. I found this bit rather confusing when I switched to clean products: why is it important for a product to be certified organic and what do different certification organizations mean and stand for? Do they all have the same criteria? Are they the same across the world? Turns out, things are far from simple! I shall try to provide an overview:
Organic produce is grown without use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms. Organic produce is not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents or chemical food additives. Pesticides may be connected to acute and delayed health issues. Artificial pesticides may cause short-lived effects such as skin irritation to more severe and long-lasting effects, such as affecting the nervous system, hormone functioning, and even cancer. Pesticides and artificial fertilizers enter our system not only through food, but also through the skincare that we use.
Organic certification bodies monitor what is included in a product, and how the ingredients are produced (i.e. whether they are truly organically grown). This system aims to provide an impartial and independent assessment of the origin and quality of ingredients of different products. However, things are far from simple with many existing certifying bodies that all seem to have different standards for issuing their organic certification.
UK: Soil Association
Soil Association (SA) is a UK certifying body. SA is one of the strictest organizations with high standards for a product to be certified organic. SA demands that a product must contain at least 95% organically grown ingredients in order to be labelled truly organic. A product can still be labelled organic if it contains at least 70% organic ingredients, but the exact percentage must be clearly stated on the packaging. The products must not be tested on animals, not include any radioactive radiation or genetically modified produce.
Europe (France): Ecocert
Ecocert is a European certifying body, with very different standards to SA. To be certified organic by Ecocert, a product must contain at least 95% ingredients derived from natural origin (i.e. not necessarily organic). A product can be certified organic if it contains at least 10% ingredients from organic farming. Ecocert furthermore checks for the absence of GMO, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicon, PEG, synthetic perfumes and dyes, animal-derived ingredients (unless naturally produced by them: milk, honey, etc.).
USDA is an American certification organization, with strict guidelines for the percentage of organic ingredients. In order to display the USDA seal, a product must contain between 95-100% certified organic ingredients. If a product contains 74-94% organic ingredients, it can be labelled as ‘Made with organic ingredients’. These products will not bear the USDA organic seal. Therefore, if you see the USDA label, you can be sure that the product contains at least 95% organic ingredients.
ICEA is an Italian cetification organization, based in Bologna. Judging from their website, ICEA provides organic certification for farming of food, however, for cosmetics it provides only Eco Bio Cosmetics Certification. To gain this certification a product must not contain any GMOs, various prohibited substances, animal final product testing, ionizing radiation. It must contain certified organic vegetable and animal materials whenever available.