Don't pay too much attention to what's called the “water phase” of a product. The latest trend in the world of “natural” and “organic” personal care products is to add “organic water” to conventional chemicals and then market the item as “all natural” and “organic.” Water in a product might be identified as hydrosols, infusions, juices, or gels. Shampoos, for example, generally contain 25 to 30 percent detergent/surfactant (human-made sudsing agents), synthetic thickeners, synthetic fragrances and preservatives, and, significantly, 70 to 75 percent water. Products with such a high percentage of water and a synthetic detergent are being marketed as organic even though, according to the National Organic Program, one may not count the water when calculating organic percentages to determine eligibility for organic status.
        Another trend in body care products that is proving to be highly profitable, and consequently has an immense following in the industry, is the creation of a new company name or the inclusion of the words organic or organics in the company's original name, with scant regard to its products' actual compositions.
In the organic food world, the USDA and other organic food producers do not permit a company to use the word organic in a company name unless the majority of the products that the company produces are composed of edible, minimally processed organic food ingredients—but in the personal care products industry, it happens all the time.
        While the National Organic Program does not expressly forbid this practice, and notes in its regulations that the appearance of organic in a brand name “does not inherently imply an organic production or handling claim,” the secretary of agriculture does have the authority to take action against the word's misuse. Further, according to the USDA's website, it is the department's intention to monitor the use of the word in company names and to work with the Federal Trade Commission to take action against its misuse. For some reason, however, personal care manufacturers have not been held to the same standard as food manufacturers. Makers of personal care products that actually follow the USDA's organic labeling guidelines are rare.

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            mothering   |  MARCH • APRIL 2006