The UK Soil Association, the organic assessment and promotion organisation, is to introduce an organic standard for health and beauty products from 1 May.
Until now, organic standards have only applied to a small number of such items, such as bath oils and lip balms, the association said. But consumer demand for a wider application of the rules prompted it to draw up standards that can be applied to all types of beauty products, from face creams to shampoos.
All products meeting the new standards will carry a Soil Association symbol designed to assure consumers that products have been independently audited for organic authenticity. The standards rule that the products should be minimally processed and GM-free. Ingredients and processes that are toxic or have detrimental effects on the environment - such as being non-biodegradable - must be avoided.
"These new standards are needed so that consumers know which organic products they can trust - and responsible companies can have their good practice recognised," said David Peace, managing director of Soil Association Certification.
The standards have been developed over three years by representatives from health and beauty companies, consumer organisations, herbalists, farmers, growers, and the Soil Association. The standards will continue to evolve as increased research and expertise in the field becomes available.
Products containing at least 95 per cent organic ingredients can be labelled organic; products with no less than 70 per cent organic ingredients may be labelled 'made with xx% organic ingredients'. A number of ingredients and processes are prohibited under the new standards. These include hydrogenated fat, ingredients of petro-chemical origin and the surfactants sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate.
Any animal products used must be from animals that have been bred under organic standards. Testing of ingredients and products on animals is prohibited, unless required by law.
Organic standards in Europe are set by the European Union. However, the EU standards only relate to products that are from an organic production system and intended for human consumption. The Soil Association has drawn up these new standards, which are voluntary, to satisfy the growing interest from companies in organic beauty products.