Our motto is “Truth in Beauty.” We strive to be as transparent as possible by keeping our customers in the loop. We don’t take this responsibility lightly and so when an issue presents itself, we do the most thorough research possible and present the facts.
It has come to our attention that Zuii Organics, a brand that we’ve touted, recommended and endorsed as a USDA Certified Organic cosmetic line, does not in fact meet the USDA standards for being certified as containing 95% organic ingredients.
We come to this conclusion after extensive research and fact-finding. We requested documents through the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) from the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) which concluded in a report that “the products produced by Zuii Organic were erroneously certified as ‘organic’ by TOFC (The Organic Food Chain) because the products contain prohibited ingredients and do not contain enough organic ingredients to qualify for the ‘organic’ designation, which requires the products to contain 95% or more organic ingredients by weight.”
The USDA regulations require that USDA certified organic products not only have 95% organic ingredients by weight if they are to carry the USDA Certified Organic seal, but also the products must not contain ingredients other than what is on the USDA’s National List of approved ingredients for organic products. The USDA rules are quite stringent as they apply the same standards for food products to personal care items that are certified under the program.
The USDA report stated that Zuii’s products contained materials not on the National List such as sorbitan olivate (derived from vegetable wax), ascorbyl palmitate (fat soluble form of Vitamin C), magnesium stearate (magnesium salt), among others, and the mineral colors mica, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, manganese violet, and zinc oxide.
Please note that none of the “prohibited ingredients” are unsafe or illegal. They just are not allowed in USDA certified organic products.
Interestingly, the USDA puts much of the blame on TOFC, an Australian certifying agency. The USDA concluded that the certifier, TOFC, was in violation of the National Organic Program (“NOP”) regulations because it erroneously certified all Zuii products as organic and “upon investigation, continued to deem the products to be properly labeled as ‘organic.’” The USDA also noted that “TOFC inefficiently investigated the complaint and provided some obtuse answers to NOP’s questions…Also, it should be noted that during the investigation, Zuii Organic contacted NOP directly and provided documentation to NOP, noting that it was dissatisfied with its certifier’s (TOFC) response to the complaint investigation. Zuii Organic’s response to the NOP was significantly more timely and complete than TOFC’s response…”
Bella Floria has emailed both Zuii and TOFC to get a response regarding the investigation and have not received any response at this time.
The issue regarding Zuii’s certification status came up a few months ago when a blogger alleged that Zuii was using the USDA logo illegally because it was not certified, and could not possibly be certified. (The blogger did not name Zuii but used images from the company website.) We investigated this allegation and gathered information along with the help of some of our friends (Thanks Fig+Sage!). It turns out the blogger had jumped the gun; we wanted more facts, since at the time, the USDA said that Zuii was legally using the USDA Certified logo, and was certified by the Australian agency, TOFC. However, after a lengthy investigation by the USDA, including laboratory testing of the products and obtaining opinions from legal and scientific experts, the USDA concluded that Zuii did not meet its standards.
After receiving the USDA official findings, we’ve taken this step to inform our customers about what we’ve found. We’ve also taken down all the “USDA Certified Organic” claims on our website, including the USDA Organic logo. Zuii Organics has done the same on its own site.
Because this was an error by the certifying agency, and not a willful misrepresentation of Zuii, we have decided to continue carrying Zuii products, which are Australian Government Certified organic (and certified organic by TOFC). See here for Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service “AQIS” standards.
We still believe that Zuii organic cosmetics are of good quality and contain significant organic content, even if they currently do not meet USDA certified organic standards. That is why we will continue to offer them and recommend them to our customers.
Filed under: Cosmetics, organic beauty products, Organic Ingredients, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »