Botanicals soapboxWe let of steam!...
The Soil Association is launching a new campaign called ‘Campaign for Clarity’ to combat the practice of ‘greenwashing’ – where companies label their products as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ when they’re often nothing of the sort. Regular readers of our blog will know it’s something we’ve highlighted in the past. Because it makes us MAD, MAD, MAD!
Since ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ have become such powerful buzzwords in the beauty and skincare industry, many companies have started making bold claims about natural and organic ingredients on their packaging – while burying in the fine print the multitude of non-organic ingredients that also go into that product.
For example, a company might greenwash consumers by boldly labeling their product as ‘Organic Honey Body Lotion’ when the product actually only contains a minimal amount of organic honey – and the rest of the ingredients are non-organic.
Since all of our products at Botanicals are both natural and certified organic by the Soil Association, we’re often frustrated to see big-business skincare companies greenwashing their packaging and misleading consumers into buying products that simply don’t have the benefits of truly organic skincare.
The Soil Association is warning consumers that if we’re eating non-organic wheat products such as breakfast cereals and breads, we could also be ingesting glyphosate – which scientists have identified as a probable cause of cancer. Although I’ve always been a dedicated shopper of all things organic, our two daughters are less fussy. So I was horrified to hear that news.
The Soil Association’s report says that the use of the world’s most widely used weedkiller – glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) – on British cereal crops has increased by a staggering 400% in the last 20 years. And according to Government data, this rise is directly matched with the amount of glyphosate found in sampled bread.
Recent tests by Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) on pesticide residues in food found that as much as 30% of UK bread contained this weedkiller. They also point out that UK wheat is also used in lots of other foods – including biscuits and breakfast cereal – which didn’t form part of this study.
70% of UK population show traces of weedkiller
Another European study on city dwellers found that in the UK, 7 out of 10 people had traces of this weedkiller in their urine.
Farmers typically spray the weedkiller before harvesting, to kill the crop and remove weeds, making it easier to harvest. But The International Agency for Research on Cancer – part of the World Health Organisation – has recently identified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. So why is it still being sprayed on our wheat?
At a recent scientific briefing in Westminster, Professor Christopher Portier, one of the co-authors of the report said:
“Glyphosate is definitely genotoxic*. There is no doubt in my mind.”
Microbeads are back in the news this week as environmental campaigners joined forces to celebrate ‘World Oceans Day’ by increasing pressure on major cosmetic companies to stop using these minute plastic particles in products ranging from body scrubs to toothpaste.
These beads are so small that they pass though sewage filters and end up in the sea. And it’s here they enter the food chain, getting ingested by plankton, molluscs, fish, birds – and eventually humans. And since the particles absorb toxic chemicals found in our polluted seas, this could be a serious health issue for both animals and ourselves.
Cosmetic companies add microbeads to their products as a scrubbing agent – to exfoliate and clean. But although many companies have been forced by public pressure to find natural alternatives, some of the largest organisations – including both Clarins and Olay – are said to be dragging their feet.
It’s a sad fact that our native bee population is in decline – both in numbers and health. This is particularly worrying because of their essential role in pollinating our food. We wrote about the subject back in 2009 in this post “Campaign to save the honeybees”. What’s really concerning is that a ban on pesticides linked to the decline has failed to halt the problem.
The Royal Horticultural Society has a great article highlighting why pollinators are so important and what we can do in our gardens to help. Click here to read it in full.:
“By planting nectar and pollen rich flowers over a long season, gardeners can help reduce this trend. In return, an abundance of pollinators will ensure garden plants continue to reproduce through seed and that many fruit and vegetable crops such as apples, strawberries and tomatoes successfully set fruit.”
The RHS recommends:
More research has been published which links chemicals used in popular cosmetics and household products to health problems. The latest report again highlights phthalates, and has found that exposure to this chemical can cause early menopause in women. It was published in the American online journal, Plos One.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in industry to make plastic and vinyl products more flexible. Bath-time ducks are often used as an example, although they’ve been banned from children’s toys in the UK for some years. So how come they’re still found in cosmetics? We copied this information from the US Food & Drug Administration’s website:
Asthma rates in UK children are said to have increased by a staggering 2-300% since the 1950s, and it’s a similar trend across both Europe and the US. Around 5.4 million Britons now have asthma, including 1.1 million children. And it causes up to 1,250 deaths each year.
Scientists in the US have recently identified chemicals found in cosmetics as a possible cause for the increase – particularly in children. They found that babies in the womb exposed to high levels of phthalates are up to 78% more at risk of developing asthma.
Dr Robin Whyatt of Columbia University said: “These chemicals are very widely used in very high volume. But they are generally not listed on labels.” Her advice was to cut back on using artificially-scented products – cosmetics, air fresheners and detergents. She also suggested that women should check their make-up on the internet for phthalates. But that’s not as easy as it sounds since there’s no requirement for producers to include it on their ingredients listings.
There have been a number of reports in this week’s national press about people suffering allergic reactions to skincare products containing MI (methylisothiazolinone). It’s used as a preservative in products ranging from body scrubs to moisturisers, sunscreens to wet wipes.
We highlighted the problem about a year ago (view the blog post) and immediately received a response from one of our customers, Gay Colenutt. She was brave enough to allow us to post a photo showing the effect one of these products containing MI had on her face and neck (right). Gay told us:
“This is what MI allergy did to me – plus cervical lymphatics were in total overdrive. Now I don’t buy any supermarket/chemist-type products for hair, skin or cleaning, etc. Absolutely love my Botanicals products, and once again have skin to be proud of.”
Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is used as a preservative in a wide range of popular moisturisers, shampoos and shower gels, including Nivea body lotion, Wet Ones and Boots men’s face wash.
Similar chemical preservatives have been withdrawn over recent years because of health concerns. Which has meant that the use of MI as a replacement has increased. But scientists are saying that higher doses of MI may well be responsible for the increase of contact allergies, such as eczema.
The Daily Mail was one of a number of national newspapers to report on the Soil Association’s recent campaign against ‘green washing’ (right). This is the growing trend by major beauty brands to promote their products as natural and organic – when they’re often very far from that.
Established in 1946 by a small group of farmers, scientists and nutritionists, the Soil Association is best known for campaigning for healthy food, farming and land use. But these days their organic symbol can be seen on everything from textiles to cosmetics. It’s a sign that a company is fully committed to the highest standards of sustainability.
Yesterday we had our annual inspection by the Soil Association. After a gruelling five hours of auditing, processing checks, organic integrity checks, traceability checks, supplier checks, packaging material checks, production process and operating procedure checks, good manufacturing practice checks, legal and statutory requirement checks, and knowledge of standards assessment, we thankfully passed with flying colours!
All of this (plus a substantial fee to the Soil Association), to prove to our customers that we are fully committed to producing authentic organic products that proudly carry the Soil Association symbol.
You might ask why we go to these lengths to prove our organic integrity, when there is no law to prevent us using the term ‘organic’ anyway. The answer is simple; we are serious about what we do. We are committed to the organic philosophy. And we don’t want to mislead our customers.
No legislation covering cosmetics
Unlike food, there is no current law preventing cosmetics manufacturers from using the term ‘organic’, even if the organic content is as little as one or two percent.