Frankly Speaking Friday-Truth on a label?

As I previously discussed, I am in the process of writing a book on Essential Oils. Right now I have only written the first few pages, and am, in fact, still organizing notes and outlining.  Actually, I am still trying to decide just what all should be included in the book, and you can help me with this. If there is particular information that you would like to know, or things that you don't really care to see in another book, please let me know. I really would like this book to be user friendly, so it would be helpful to know what you would like included! 

Okay, enough about the book.  Along with my organizing notes, I have also looked over a few web sites this week and, once again, I have gotten my ire up when I found lies in advertising, and ignorance in the supposed experts. 

There is a National company, one that has a bee logo, that has been selling their "natural" products for years, and in the last few years, they have added some "natural" specialty soaps. These soaps carry a percentage of "naturalness" right on their packaging. So let's look at this, shall we?

Let us begin by stating that this bee company is actually owned by the chemical company, Clorox. Yes, the famous bleach company is now the same company that makes the "natural" bee soaps, lip balms, and body care items (they bought it in 2007). Does this make a difference? Well I think that you will find that it certainly can. And one of the first ways that it does make a difference, is in that percentage of naturalness labeling. Let me explain. As we have previously discussed, the phrase " all natural" is not legally regulated, only the word "organic" is. But, the company website really tries to sell us on this "new" labeling. Here is how, copied directly from their site.

"In order to help you identify truly natural products and maximize your well-being, Burt's Bees, along with the Natural Products Association and other leading Natural personal Care companies, developed The Natural Standard for Personal Care Products"

 Note that the bee company and the other "leading" companies developed the standards that have been set forth. The companies decided what they could and could not say in advertising and what would be defined as natural.

"The standard is a set of guidelines that dictates which ingredients can and cannot be considered natural and ultimately, whether a product can be deemed truly “natural.” Under the standard, any product labeled “natural” must meet the following four criteria:..."  

I challenge you to visit the site and look over the ingredient list that they consider natural. And while you are there, read the directions for getting a product approved as "natural" by this group. It is amazing......

"Natural: A product labeled “natural” should be made up of natural ingredients and be manufactured with appropriate processes to maintain ingredient purity."

Again, visit their site and see the ingredient list of what they consider natural ingredients to use. They are listed by manufacturer, and I will explain why in just a bit.

"Safety: A product labeled “natural” should avoid any ingredient that research shows may have a suspected human health risk." 

This is odd, since the bee company uses comfrey in several of their products.  Comfrey contains toxic substances that can be absorbed by the skin. It is  recommended that, even topical preparations should be used only for only a
 short time, and under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
 Additionally, comfrey should never be applied to open wounds or broken skin. 
You are not to use  comfrey at all if you have liver disease, alcoholism, or 
cancer. And children, the elderly, and pregnant or breastfeeding women are not
to  use any comfrey products,  under any circumstances. But on their website
they state that comfrey is known for its skin healing benefits, and is perfectly safe. I suppose that all of the countries which banned its internal use and warned of its toxicity when absorbed by the skin, must be wrong.

A product labeled “natural” should use no animal testing in its development

A product labeled “natural” should use (bio)degradable ingredients and the
most environmentally sensitive packaging. Ultimately, The Natural Standard for Personal Care Products aims to clearly define what a “natural” personal care product is and what it is not. The standard encompasses all cosmetic personal care products as defined and regulated by the FDA."   

*This is their "standard", not the FDA's. They are just saying that they are using the word "cosmetics" to include all the items that the FDA calls cosmetics.

 "Simply put, as of May 1, 2008, The Natural Standard for Personal Care Products states that all personal care products labeled or branded “natural” must be made with at least 95% all-natural ingredients and contain only those synthetic ingredients that are specifically allowed under this standard and do not have any suspected human health risks." 

These are their guidelines, not the FDA's. This is important, and you will soon see why.

The standard also requires that companies be transparent, fully disclosing their ingredients accurately and truthfully. They should strive to maximize their use of recyclable and post-consumer recycled content in packaging. And finally, they should avoid animal testing of ingredients or products." 

This is rather funny, because when you look at their own label you will see that they do NOT fully disclose their ingredients.

"How can you spot truly natural products? Helping you to clearly understand and identify truly natural products is a key element of The Natural Standard for Personal Care Products. To easily identify those products that meet the standard, the Natural Seal has been developed. You can rest assured that products carrying the Natural Seal truly are natural. Be sure to look for the Natural Seal on Burt’s Bees products starting later this year!"  

Read on to see why this is a giant joke. Now, let's look at this a bit closer, shall we? What do you suppose it takes to belong to the "Natural Products Association"? I will tell you, it only takes one thing....MONEY!  If you do not belong to their association, the fee for submitting one product, one upc code, is $1500.00 Each upc code requires its own form and fee. But wait, if you use only the "approved" ingredients, you can get a nice discount. So, take a look at the approved ingredients. They are listed by manufacturer to make it easier on you. Of course, I had not even heard of most of the ingredients, which made me wonder. But I finally figured it out. These are the products that have paid their fee to become approved. They are not your general "vegetable glycerin" or "chamomile powder", they are specific products, by the large companies that are members of this group. So you can get a discount on your submission fee if you patronize the other members. One hand washes the other. Who is left out? We, the consumer, that's who! Think about this. Who can afford $1500.00 per upc to submit a  product line in the first place? Large companies of course. Clorox type companies Oh, but what about the membership discount? Well it is still a good chunk of change, half price if I remember correctly, but the annual membership fee is not disclosed on the site either, least wise that I could find. So I have to wonder about how much that could be too. And, again, I didnt even recognize most of the ingredients on the approved ingredient list.

Now let's look at a few more things. This is part of their actual add. 

"How it Works
Specially formulated with Buttermilk, this French-milled soap is gentle enough for everyday use. Leaves baby's skin clean, soft, and smooth. Pediatrician-tested. Hypo-allergenic. " 

This statement is also rather odd, considering that in the question/answer section of their web site, when asked if they had hypoallergenic products, they say, 
"There is no defined methodology to test for allergic reactions in beauty or personal care products, nor does the FDA regulate use of the term "hypoallergenic." Consequently, we do not position our products as hypoallergenic. A list of ingredients for each product is available on individual product information pages on this site."

Hmm, I guess they forgot to read their own questions and answers.

  Now, let's take a quick look at the ingredient list.

"Ingredients: vegetable soap base, parfum (fragrance), butyris lac (buttermilk powder, babeurre en poudre), avena sativa (oat) kernel flour, CI 77891 (titanium dioxide), limonene."
First off, I  wonder why they list their ingredients in French and English, especially since their plant is located in North Carolina, USA. But why digress?
Listed first, meaning that it is the ingredient with the largest quantity percentage, is "Vegetable Soap Base". This does NOT tell you what oils were used to make the soap. While many business owners dont want to share their formulas for fear of theft, the majority of people balk at this practice. So why would you accept if from a large company? Then there is the fact that they do list some of the ingredients, so why not all of them? You cannot pick and choose which ingredients you list, it should be all or none. So we are left wondering if this company knows what they are using, and if they do, then why arent they sharing that information? Why do they make a point in one section of their web site, to say that all of their ingredients are clearly listed, when in fact they are not?  And what happened to the mandates of their Natural Association? I guess since they are the ones that made the rules, they can bend or break them as they see fit.  
The second ingredient is parfum, which they then clarify as fragrance.  Parfum is the French word for perfume. According to Wikapedia, Perfume is  ".....a mixture of fragrant essential oils and aroma compounds, fixatives, and solvents used to give the human body, animals, objects, and living spaces a pleasant scent...." 
Why is this the second largest ingredient in this soap? In my experience, and in my soaps, fragrance is never the second largest ingredient. In fact, it is almost always the next to last ingredient, the last usually being the colorant or viatmin E. How can this soap be 99.9% natural when perfume is the second largest ingredient?
While I see nothing of concern with the buttermilk powder, indeed I use it in some of my products, I wonder why they chose to use the flour over larger oats. But, since oats are frequently used to soften water and the skin, I don't see an issue with this either. I do, however, wonder about the last ingredient, Limonene. According to the Wikipedia, Limonene is increasingly being used as a solvent for cleaning purposes, such as the removal of oil from machine parts, as it is produced from a renewable source (citrus oil, as a byproduct of orange juice manufacture). It also serves as a paint stripper when applied to painted wood, and is also useful as a fragrant alternative to turpentine. Limonene is also used as a solvent in some model airplane glues. As it is combustible, limonene has also been considered as a biofuel. It is used as a botanical insecticide, and is added to cleaning products, such as hand cleansers, to give fragrance.  Even with these indications, limonene is a common ingredient in cosmetic products, is a main odor constitutant of citrus, is used in food manufacturing, and even in some medicines, as it masks the bitter tastes of alkaloids. So, while it may be used in other cosmetics, I don't think it is the best choice for a Baby soap that is being marketed as 99.9% natural.

I am not asserting that this is a bad product, nor am I asserting it is a good one for that matter. I just don't care for deceptive advertising. I like when you say something and then follow through and do that same something. I dont like it when the left hand fails to know what the right is doing. I don't like talking out of both sides of your mouth. And I especially don't like it when big companies get together and create their own club, write their own rules, hype their club, and then dont even bother to follow the rules that they just wrote. I want the same answer to be given to the same question, more than once. I want the honest, plain, unadulterated truth, not an ad agency's idea of what I should want.

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