A Word About Zuii Organic Cosmetics…

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.


4 Responses

  1. I think you miss the whole point of the zuii USDA issue-they failed the USDA test by what they seem to have declared to the certifying agency OFC, and in turn they should fail the the Australian system also. Don’t you think that ethics and honesty play a key part in what the consumers buys into? Call zuii what it is, mineral makeup, not organic.

    • Dear Joan,

      Thanks for your comments. People will have different opinions about this issue. However, our role is providing the facts and letting people make up their own minds.

      So I don’t agree that we’ve missed the point. For instance you say that Zuii “failed the USDA test by what they seem to have declared to the certifying agency OFC.”

      In fact, we’ve reviewed the entire public file available from the USDA and in the 350+ pages from their nearly year long investigation, there is no evidence indicating that Zuii misstated or misrepresented information to OFC about the contents or nature of their products. In addition, as the certifying agency, it was also incumbent upon OFC to make site inspections and ensure that the information provided to them was accurate.

      The USDA concluded that OFC was most likely relying on outdated USDA standards and regulations in approving Zuii’s USDA certified organic status.

      You also stated that since Zuii did not qualify for USDA organic certification, “in turn they should fail the Australian system also.” From what I understand, the USDA and Australian government use different standards and there is no evidence indicating that Zuii is noncompliant with Australian organic standards.

      If you have evidence to the contrary, please feel free to share.

      And yes, ethics and honesty absolutely play a key part in what consumers buy into. That’s why we put this information out and made it public.

      To call Zuii simply “mineral makeup” would not only be inaccurate but also unfair, as the products contain significant organic content (up to 85%+ according to the USDA report, which notes ingredients such as certified organic aloe vera, jojoba, rose hip, geranium and orange oil).

      So while there is plenty of fingerpointing and blame to go around, it isn’t our role to put out conjecture or inflame passions without proof. We put out only facts – pure and simple.

      We believe that consumers are smart enough to come to their own conclusions.

  2. Its important to remember that the Australian Standards have a dedicated cosmetic section and the NOP does not. NOP have failed to address issues such as FDA calaculation requirements in cosmetics. If you read the Australian requirements, you will find they are stricter than the NOP list

    • Ginger, thanks for your insight and for pointing out that the Australian Standards have a dedicated section dealing with cosmetics and skincare while the USDA does not. I’m not sure what you mean by the Australian requirements being “stricter,” but I agree that they certainly are different than the NOP standards. For instance, the Australian government allows “mined minerals” as ingredients in certified organic cosmetics and skincare, while the NOP (USDA) does not allow many minerals, especially those used to enhance appearance and do not have nutrient value. This is due to the fact that the NOP essentially applies food standards across the board and doesn’t make any allowances or exceptions for cosmetic items.

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