Dr. Bronner Soaps
An organic soap company and a consumer group sued the Agriculture Department Monday for ordering the removal of its round, green "USDA Organic" seal from personal care products and cosmetics.
The department created the label in 2002 to attest to organic claims on food labels. At the time, it welcomed makers of other products â€” cosmetics and personal care items, pet food, dietary supplements, textiles and fish â€” to get certified to use the seal.
But in April, department officials reversed their policy and notified companies that their cosmetics and other personal care products cannot be government-certified as organic.
David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, said his company made a hefty investment in getting his soaps, lotions and lip balms certified to use the seal. Organic peppermint and coconut oil, for example, costs twice as much as non-organic versions, he said.
"Now this distinction is going to be lost," said Bronner, whose company filed the lawsuit along with the Organic Consumers Association. "We lose the consumer trust in the national organic certification. That distinguishes us. Now the rug's just being pulled out from under us."
Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the lawsuit seeks to cancel the Agriculture Department's decision to bar the seal on personal care products.
A department spokesman said the agency has carefully reviewed the organic labeling program to make sure it includes a wide range of agricultural products.
"USDA doesn't have the authority to regulate cosmetics," said the spokesman, Ed Loyd. Cosmetics are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, he noted.