Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What’s in their Yard?

Oooo! Ahhhhh! A new “organic” bath and body line from England is about to be launched in the US. (Apparently, we don’t have enough of our own.) The primary marketing of this new line will be home parties hosted by – well – YOU - with the help of a consultant. The consultant must be the “translator”. (English to English can be problematic.)
Though I try to resist, I am feeling like the poor, merely “natural”, kid cousin of the much more sophisticated, elusive “organic” teenage cousin. They are so mysterious, elite and cool and all you want to do is be accepted by them and maybe hang out with them. You try to learn their lingo and understand them. But they are so steeped in self importance that all you can do is nod your head and accept their claims of superiority. (In other words – act like you knew what they were talking about so you didn’t look dumb.) And of course you accept these claims. How could you not? Their clothing, (packaging), presents them with understated, spa-like sophistication that says “WE know. YOU don’t. Trust us.” (In this case, it says it with a really cultivated British accent.)

To ward off the self diminishing of our own creation – I did what every red blooded American would do. I looked to find flaws in this new arrival. Not just dirt. Real flaws. That meant research. Lots and lots of research. The language barrier didn’t help. Did you know that in England, water is listed as “aqua” in the ingredients? I needed to double check to make sure we were talking about the same kind of H2O. (We were.)

My first stop was to their web site. I had to decide between the British site, the Japanese site or the USA site. Choosing the safest bet, I went with the US site only to find that it had been taken down pending the US launch. Risking the whole language thing, I opened the British site. I had anticipated the pound currency issue too so I had a currency calculator opened in another browser window.

I puttered around the site for a bit. I came to a listing for a 99% Organic Orange & Geranium Soap bar for L3.50. (Currency calculator says… $5.81) The directions said “Use with warm water to create a luxurious lather and uplifting fragrance.” (Do they usually need to be told this in England?) The usual soap-ish ingredients were listed. Translation was rough but I muddled through. Palm oil was listed as sodium palmate – coconut oil was sodium cocoate – citric acid was sodium citrate – etc… No secret ingredients. No big revelations. Just their version of soap stuff.

Then I noticed the final ingredient line. It helpfully told me that the soap’s organic ingredients were denoted with an asterisk. Good. Now I could finally see what made them so way cooler than the rest of us kids. I scrolled back up the list of ingredients…then back down… then up again… I adjusted the text size on my browser window to LARGEST… looked again. Of the 9 ingredients listed, a mere 2 of them were organic. In volume order from highest to lowest, only numbers 4 and 5, the orange and geranium essential oils, were organic. Nothing else.

Please bear with me while I share some calculations that the currency converter didn’t cover. This particular bar of soap weighed 100 grams or 3.381oz. (Yeah – dinky.) The International Fragrance Association, (yes – there really is such a thing), deems what is the maximum use level for skin exposure for most all essential oils. The maximum use level for geranium essential oil is 13.80%. Orange is 100%.
So – the math said that the maximum amount of geranium oil that should be in this bar of soap is .28oz. Now, having blended these two scents myself, I can pretty much guess that the other 3.101oz of this bar are NOT liquid orange essential oil. It would be really drippy (not really soap at all). Besides – there are 3 other non-organic ingredients listed prior to the orange oil.

So just for giggles, let’s assume that there is double as much orange oil as geranium oil – or .56oz. (I am having some serious déjà vu’ of my 11 yr olds decimal homework.) Combined, there is less than 1oz of organic ingredients in this 3.381oz bar of soap? Less than 30%. Silly me. I thought 99% organic would mean that 3.347oz of this 3.381oz bar of were made of organic materials. Guess I missed something in translation.

The FDA says:
“Processed products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients
These products cannot use the term organic anywhere on the principal display panel. However,
they may identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced on the ingredients statement on the information panel.”

Okay, I have to admit that the word “organic” is not on their “principal display panel” for this soap. But when I first began composing this entry, there was a green box on the soap product page that stated that it was 99% organic. Now the US page is open. The soap now weighs 3.53oz (still dinky) and costs $6.50. The ingredients and denotations are the same but the 99% organic box is gone. I guess that which is considered “organic” in England is not considered so in the US. Good for us! But buyers beware – the word “organic” is one of two in this particular company’s name – and the other word isn’t “kinda”.


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