Teaching Tuesdays -Words & Phrases You Need to Know part 2

This past Friday's post began with a rant on companies that "tricked" people with marketing words, and companies that simply didn't understand, or have  knowledge of their own ingredients. Either way, with some education, we can discern pure marketing strategies from proprietors that need more education. So, today's post is a continuation of words and phrases that we need to know more about!

"preservative free" - First of all, preservative free does not mean that the product is chemical free, fragrance free, stabilizer free, emulsifier free, synthetic free, or even sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) free, so it really means little, in and of itself. Then there are the handmade soaps that I have seen, advertising they are preservative free. Since a soap does not (as in never ever) need a preservative, using the phrase "preservative free" is either a marketing strategy simply used to sucker us in, or it shows the sellers' lack of education [about their product]. 

"Eco-Friendly"-This is such a "hot" button term now days, with everyone jumping onto the "save the eco-system" bandwagon. A great wagon to ride, but really, what is "eco-friendly"? What does it mean? There is no government, legally defined, "eco-friendly", so there are no parameters for its use. I have seen many claims of "eco-friendly" products, but what makes the solid deodorant or perfume a more eco-friendly alternative than their spray counterparts (remember, we are comparing to the Indie push sprayers, not the commercial chemical ones). The only possible, non-eco-friendly thing that I could come up with, was that the spray may miss part of its target, and then dissipate in the air. Is that enough to make it a non-eco-friendly choice? And, if it is, why then is the seller offering it along side their solid bars?  

"Hypoallergenic"- We all need to understand the definition of this phrase because could impact our health. This label does not mean that the product will not cause an allergy. By definition, "hypo" means "less than", so a hypoallergenic product is "less likely" to cause an allergic reaction, but there is still the possibility of one. It means that the maker of the product has either reduced, or removed ingredients, such as fragrances or preservatives (in jewelry this would likely mean nickel), that tend to cause allergies. Phrases like, "non-irritating", "allergy tested", "dermatologist tested" are all well and good, but they have no industry standard either, so they do not offer any guarantee against an allergic reaction either!

"Not tested on animals"- This one always makes me smile. Who would/could test on animals besides a large corporation? Even if the Indie business wanted too, they just don't have the resources, and in most cases, the education, to do this. Can you envision your local soap-maker going out into the woods to  capture raccoons so that they could test their soaps? 
The other aspect to using this claim, is that, while they can correctly say they have never tested on an animal, how can they be sure that none of their ingredients ever have? Ingredients come from all over the world, and unfortunately, this includes many places that are not known for their ethical behavior.  

"Prevents stretch marks" is another phrase that gets me going. This is not a medically/physically proven statement. Stretch marks are caused by your skin, and as such, have to do with your genetics. Some women do not get stretch marks at all, but that is due to the fact that her skin reacts well to expansion.  Look at your Mother, if she has stretch marks from her pregnancy, or from a rapid or large weight gain, then you will be more prone/likely to get them as well. While a lotion or cream will help to alleviate the itchy, uncomfortable feeling that accompanies the rapid skin expansion of pregnancy, it will not diminish your chances of getting the stretch marks. So use the oils, lotions, and creams to help you feel better, but do not expect them to alter genetics! 

"Does not contain any surfactants, which are detergents that the big commercial companies use"- I have seen this on a few Indie soaping and lotion sites. A "surfactant" is not necessarily a detergent! According to Wikipedia, "surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, the interfacial tension between two liquids, or that between a liquid and a solid. Surfactants may act as wetting agents, detergents, emulsifiers, foaming agents and dispersants." 
We all know that oil and water does not mix, so haven't you ever wondered how lotion/soap makers get that to happen? They add a surfactant, that;s how. By necessity, you need to have a surfactant to get the oil and the water to mix and stay together. So, while a detergent could be a surfactant, not all surfactants are detergents!

"Organic" is probably the hottest, hot button today, but it is a legally defined phrase in many countries, of which the USA is one. The certification process varies from country to country, but all involve the setting of standards which  control everything having to do with the product. Each stage, every process, and all businesses that have anything to do with the product, has a set of standards which must be followed. These standards extend all the way from the seed stage to its final destination, be it a grocery store for resale, or a restaurant for consumption. 

Basically, "organic", when related to our crops, means that the use of anything synthetic has been avoided. Chemicals like pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms are not used. Additionally, the land used to raise organic crops has been free of chemical use for at least three years, and a physical separation is maintained between the certified [organic] plants and the non-certified ones in order to avoid contamination. Additionally, the grower is required to maintain  accurate records, with regard to their production, the production process, and their sales. Also, Inspectors can, and do, show up unannounced to inspect the property and crops.  

In the USA, these standards are set by the USDA, the Department of Agriculture. There are three different levels of labeling for organic products;

1. 100% organic-These products must contain (excluding water and salt) ingredients that are only organically produced. The processing aids must also be all organic, and they cannot be produced using any excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation.

2. Organic products must consist of at least 95% organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients 
must consist of nonagricultural substances that are approved on the National List, including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form.

Any product that meets the requirements for either 100% organic or organic  may display the terms on their principal contact panel. Additionally, the USDA seal and the seal of the involved certifying agents may also appear on the product packages and in advertisements. 

3. Made With Organic Ingredients are products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients. These products are also allowed to list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. 

Processed products labeled “made with organic ingredients” cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. The 
percentage of organic content and the certifying agent seal or mark may be used on the principal display panel. However, the USDA seal cannot be.

There are certified [organic] and non-certified [organic] food crop producers. Because the certification process is so costly, many of the farmers simply cannot afford to become certified, however, they still follow the same regulations for food safety and agricultural processes, as well as all of the other applicable government guidelines. Their products will be labeled "non-certified organic". The quality should be the same, the only difference being that they did not pay for the certification process. 

Processed products that contain less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the term organic anywhere on the principal display panel. They cam, however, 
identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced on the ingredients statement information panel.

A civil penalty of up to $11,000 can be levied on any person who knowingly sells, or labels as organic, a product that is not produced and handled in 
accordance with the National Organic Program's regulations.

And remember (see last Friday's post) that "all natural" and "made with organic ingredients" does not ensure you that there are no "bad for you" ingredients in that product! According to the FDA, "natural" means that the product does not contain any synthetic or artificial ingredients, and to be labeled "healthy" means that the product meets certain criteria which limits the amount of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and also includes specific amounts of various vitamins, minerals and nutrients. So again, you could have an all natural product that is not healthy, by the FDA's healthy standards. For instance, you could have an organic ice cream that is also high in saturated fats, therefore, unhealthy.

Any product labeled as organic must identify each organically produced ingredient in the ingredient statement on the information panel.The name of the certifying agent of the final product must be displayed on the information panel. The address of the certifying agent of the final product may be displayed on the information panel.

Be aware, there are no restrictions on use of other truthful labeling claims such as “no drugs or growth hormones used,” “free range,” or “sustainably harvested.” 

In the end, I hope that you will recognize that a company can do a great job of being "eco-friendly" without necessarily having the certification for being organic. Likewise, I hope that you also can see that words and labels alone do not make a truth or a good product. In the midst of some ill-informed, lack-luster shops, there are a lot of amazing companies out there, doing their best to bring quality products to the marketplace. It is our responsibility as consumers, to research and to seek out these companies!

No comments: