Since we’ve been discussing organic body care and cosmetics lately, I thought we should discuss the NSF/ANSI 305 Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients Standard.
Below are some facts about this label.
NSF/ANSI 305 Standard is an American-based, third-party certification of personal care products adopted by NSF International in accordance with American National Standards Institute (ANSI). NSF is meant to help define labeling and marketing requirements for the “contains organic ingredients” claim for various products that contain a minimum of 70% organic content.
This standard was recently expanded to allow plant-based ingredients certified to European Union (EU) organic regulations. This means that companies formulating personal care products to meet NSF/ANSI 305, Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients, can source from both U.S. National Organic Program (NOP)–certified ingredients and EU-certified ingredients suppliers.
What’s the relationship to USDA organic certification?
- This newer standard is not the same as USDA organic certification.
- There’s already a “Made With Organic Ingredients” label standard under NOP – it’s not well regulated when it comes to body care, but it does exist. However, it doesn’t take non-food ingredients into account.
- NSF/ANSI 305 requires that USDA National Organic Program (NOP) certified ingredients be used, but allows for the organic ingredients to undergo certain chemical processes considered synthetic under the National Organic Program (NOP).
- Like the NOP regulations, the NSF/ANSI 305 includes requirements on organic ingredients, material, process and production specifications and labeling.
- Products covered by this standard include cosmetics, i.e., foundation and lipstick; rinse-off and leave-on personal care products, including moisturizers and lotions; personal hygiene products, such as soaps, shower gels, and bath beads. Products covered are such that they may be applied to or used externally on any part of the body including the hair, face, hands and other skin areas. The standard includes cosmetics under personal care products.
Requirements of NSF/ANSI 305
- The NSF standard is only designed for products that make the “contains organic ingredients” claim and allows for limited chemical processes that are typical for personal care products but would not be allowed for food products. NSF/ANSI 305 does require companies to state the exact percentage of organic content based on the requirements of the standard.
- Basically, if a company can prove that their products contain 70%+ organic ingredients and the remaining raw materials are on the approved standards list, it can be certified to the NSF/ANSI 305 standard.
- The limited chemical processes that may be used under this certification include hydrogenation, hydrolysis, esterification and transesterification and supposedly, the processes must be environmentally and biologically benign.
- The NSF/ANSI 305 Standard requires strict labeling standards, including the NFS symbol on the front of the label, and the claim “Contains Organic Ingredients” on the label and the description.
- Certified products must name an independent third party certifier. For example, Oregon Tilth is a certifier.
Benefits of NSF/ANSI 305
- NOP has shady regulation at best when it comes to cracking down on fake organics, so perhaps NSF/ANSI 305 will be more effective.
- NOP standards are based on food, not body care, so NOP certification doesn’t support issues such as raw materials used as an emulsifier for an organic lotion. NSF/ANSI 305 makes adjustments for these sorts of issues.
- The standard may allow for a more common understanding of environmental friendly production systems and social accountability in the production of personal care products
Limitations of this standard
- NSF/ANSI 305 is a voluntary standard, which is less effective than forced standards. Also, although this standard is meant to, “Consider the intricacies of personal care product formulations and eliminate consumer confusion,” I’m not seeing how MORE labels eliminate confusion.
- Products with an organic content claim of 100% are still addressed by the USDA NOP which means you’ve got personal care products floating around under various labels, instead of one easy to understand personal care product labeling system.
- In my opinion, already people are super confused about body care certification under NOP. What people are starting to understand better is that the USDA organic seal means a product really does contain organics, so adding another, third-party label into the mix seems slightly confusing for a majority of consumers.
Most companies and organic advocates feel that the NSF/ANSI 305 Standard is a move in the right direction towards a universal standard for organic body care. I agree that a universal label for body care is a good idea, but I don’t love that it’s created the possibility of more confusion, along with the problem of having various body care labels swirling around. Now consumers must learn the ins and outs of yet another label.
It would be nice to see this all streamlined. In my opinion, we should cover American body care – both 100% organic and other variables, such as 70% organic, 95% organic, etc., under one common label, not many labels.
When shopping – the bottom line…
As a consumer, look for personal care products and cosmetics with…
- The USDA Organic Seal – which means a product contains at least 95%-100% organic ingredients.
- The NSF “contains organic ingredients” label – which means the product contains 70% organic ingredients.
If you don’t see one of these two labels, the product is a buy at your own risk type of product, meaning it may or may not be organic.