The law requires that claims listed on labels be truthful, but as consumers we know that not all companies are scrupulous enough to truly be honest.
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photo - Jacob Ammentorp Lund - Getty Images

Recently, the FDA recently announced new regulations that will govern the information required on the nutritional panels on all food items sold in the United States.

The new rules, which are to take effect in July 2018, will see the revision to the serving sizes of most foods. They will also require additional information on labels like the amount of added sugar listed as a percentage of daily values as well as in grams. Naturally, with these changes on the horizon, the labeling of hair care and cosmetic products came to mind. Note that they will not impact these categories of products since they are not food items. Nonetheless, the rules governing the labeling of our hair and skin care products are so scarcely known, that they certainly warrant examination, especially since as a community we place such a premium on products that claim to be natural or organic.

Unfortunately, for many years, the FDA has declined--and repeatedly at that--to define the term 'natural' as it relates to food items.

What does natural mean?

Unfortunately, for many years, the FDA has declined--and repeatedly at that--to define the term natural as it relates to food items. The term natural is not defined in any of the regulations that the FDA is charged with enforcing. More to the point, however, is the fact that the FDA has no say in whether or not a product is permitted to use the description organic.

Who regulates cosmetics?

Cosmetic products are regulated by FDA under The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, but neither of these two regulations include a definition of the term. In fact, anything that is organic is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. This group enforces regulations which govern the requirements that must be met in order for agricultural ingredients to be deemed organic and therefore be permitted to use the organic symbol on products.

The simple way to look at it is that the USDA oversees whether or not a manufacturer may claim their product as organic and the FDA regulates the product safety and labeling of that product. The set of guidelines that an entity must fulfill in order to use the organic label is separate from the regulations that the FDA enforces and must meet the same FDA safety and labeling requirements.

Distressingly, it is completely permitted by law for a company to put its cosmetic product on the market without FDA approval of its labeling.

The law requires that claims listed on labels be truthful, but as consumers we know that not all companies are scrupulous enough to be honest; too many companies purposely attempt to mislead consumers with the claims they make. It is up to us to read our labels and analyze the claims that products make. Due diligence is completely up to us and when we find that there are breaches and inconsistencies, we ought to shed a light on these occurrences. When it comes to the hair and skin care products we use, we are indeed, our brother’s keeper.