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Deciphering Organic Labels

Deciphering Organic Claims: If the label says Organic, can’t I trust that it’s safe?

Whooey, that’s a big question, and even more important now as women begin to be more aware of what they put on their and their babies’ skin. You would think, wouldn’t you, that the word “organic” on a label should mean something is safe. But this is one time when you really have to be a sleuth to make sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting.

The first thing you should know is that no one governs an “organic” standard for personal care products (lotions, soaps and shampoos) like the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) does for food products. This is changing, though, and it should make things easier on mamas, but for now anything that claims to be organic is not supposed to use the word “organic” on the front label unless it is certified. And while there are organic certifiers for personal care products, the standards vary and what is acceptable to one certifier might be in the danger zone to another.

Let’s use the fictional example of Sweet Mary Beth’s Organic Baby. To comply with USDA organic standards to use the word “organic” on the front label, Sweet Mary Beth’s Organic Baby must be certified under one of the three organic levels: Made With Organic (70% or more organic ingredients), Organic (95% or more organic ingredients), 100% Organic (yes, 100% organic ingredients). If it isn’t certified and doesn’t carry the name of the certifier, it can’t claim to be organic. Period.

If another private certifier is listed on Sweet Mary Beth’s Organic Baby it can be difficult to make sure that certifier holds to the same standards as the USDA’s NOP. Many concerned companies (including EMAB) are working with the Organic Trade Association and the American Herbal Products Association to set a standard for personal care products that will assure consumers of the highest level of integrity and safety. For now, to be certified by the USDA, the food standards are all we have in the United States . It’s very difficult for personal care products to achieve these food standards because of the processes involved in manufacturing personal care products.

Read the label. Look for the logo. If the word organic means something there will be a certifier. If you are in a store holding a product that says “organic” on the front label, you should ask yourself how the product can claim that. Unless Sweet Mary Beth’s Organic Baby has at least 70% organic ingredients and carries the name of the certifier, Sweet Mary Beth’s Organic Baby shouldn’t be using the word “organic.”

What EMAB products are certified? All EMAB teas are USDA Certified 100% organic. Angel Baby Bath Blossoms, Postpartum Bath Herbs, Bosom Buddies and Happy Feet are also certified organic. These products that are certified proudly sport the Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic logo, as well as the USDA seal and/or the name of our certifier. All of our other products that contain certified organic ingredients have those ingredients specified in the ingredient panel and are backed by a Certificate of Analysis for each ingredient. But we will never use the “organic” claim on the label of products until they can be certified to the National Organic Program (NOP) or standards that are equally as high. We know our products are pure and safe, we take great pains to make that true. The trust of millions of mamas is at stake, and we take that very seriously.

Now what about “Certified Natural”? There’s no such thing. There is no official certifier for “natural”. Read the labels! And the next time you go out to pick a Cocamidopropyl Betaine off of a bush outside your front door, you’ll see how natural “natural” it is!

– Provided by the Earth Mama Angel Baby


  1. Great post! Thanks for the information. It can all become so confusing. I learned a thing or two today! Thanks again.

  2. Brena said...

    That's super helpful! I'm going to email the link to everyone in my playgroup. We were talking about this just the other day!!

  3. A Psych Mommy said...

    Thanks for the informative post! We buy organic as much as possible and sometimes all of the different labels can get confusing!

  4. Anna said...

    Great info – thanks!

  5. GwennS said...

    Thank you for the clarification..I had no idea that so many products were not certified.

  6. Amanda said...

    Very informative. Thanks!!! (Love EMAB products!)

    Amanda G.

  7. Shaking said...

    This is very helpful because I really was unsure. I also recently read an article stating that it isn't always necessary to spend the money on some organics depending texture and skin. Great post.

  8. Kristin said...

    Useful to know the distinctions.

    While I certainly appreciate that in many cases the organic label indicates a product with fewer preservatives and unwanted fillers I hope that people realize that often the components of an organic and non-organic product are indistinguishable…just because it was synthesized doesn't mean it is inherently bad.

  9. Sara in Seattle said...

    Wow! Thanks for the info

  10. Upstatemomof3 said...

    That is the biggest problem with Organic – you cannot be completely sure. Thanks for the advice though – good ways to double check.

  11. Slee said...

    i'd never really stopped to think about what went into organic certification, and it cracks me up that they use the term "organic" to mean what they use if for, since from a biology standpoint, it just means carbon based!
    but thank you so much for helping to clarify what i should be looking for when trying to be less chemically assaulted!

  12. MaryAnne said...

    excellent post – I understand organic labelling much better now, thank you!

  13. Dorky Val said...

    I absolutely love Earth Mama Angel Baby, their teas helped me my entire pregnancy and now breastfeeding. This article helped me realize what all the organic labels meant.

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