WHEN IT COMES TO BODY CARE PRODUCTS, what does the word organic mean? These days, not a whole lot. While the National Organic Program of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was originally intended to govern only food, as of August 2005 the USDA had agreed to allow other product categories—such as personal care products, cotton, and cleaning items—to receive certification. However, the department does not enforce adherence to the organic standards in the personal care products industry.
        Unfortunately, when seeking to purchase “organic” personal care products, the buyer needs to be wary. A vast array of body care products labeled “organic” (more than 5 million entries in a Google search) differ little from run-of-the-mill drugstore commodities. In addition, a maker of personal-care merchandise may receive USDA certification for a few items, or even just one, and then promote their
company as “certified organic,” thereby leading consumers to believe that all of their goods are certified organic when they are not. This is why some critics call the indiscriminate use of the word organic on body care products misleading if not downright fraudulent. What's a green mother to do?
        First, don't take anything you see on the front of a label too seriously. Instead, read the ingredients listed on the back. You'll often see the names of synthetic chemicals, such as surfactants (sudsing agents such as decyl polyglucose, sucrose cocoate, and cocamidopropyl betaine), emollients (coconut fatty acids, cetyl alcohol, emulsifying wax, glycerin), fragrance and preservatives (parabens, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexyl glycerin, grapefruit/citrus seed extracts, sorbates, benzoates), posing as “natural” ingredients in allegedly organic products. However, these synthetic chemicals are not natural and could not be used in food products that are certified organic.

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            mothering   |  MARCH • APRIL 2006