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Amidst nutrition facts, ingredient lists, and dietary claims on food packages, “organic” might appear as one more piece of information to decipher when shopping for products.  Understanding what the organic label means can help shoppers make informed purchasing choices.

Organic is a labeling term found on products that have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – enforces the organic regulations, ensuring the integrity of the USDA Organic Seal.

In order to make an organic claim or use the USDA Organic Seal, the final product must follow strict production, handling and labeling standards and go through the organic certification process.  The standards address a variety of factors such as soil quality, animal raising practices, and pest and weed control.  Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.

Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible.  Organic produce must be grown on soil that had no prohibited substances (most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) applied for three years prior to harvest.  As for organic meat, the standards require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviours, fed organic feed, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.

There are four distinct labelling categories for organic products – 100 percent organic, organic, “made with” organic ingredients, and specific organic ingredients.

In the “100 Percent Organic” category, products must be made up of 100 percent certified organic ingredients.  The label must include the name of the certifying agent and may include the USDA Organic Seal and/or the 100 percent organic claim.

In the “Organic” category, the product and ingredients must be certified organic, except where specified on National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.  Non-organic ingredients allowed per the National List may be used, but no more than five percent of the combined total ingredients may contain non-organic content.  Additionally, the label must include the name of the certifying agent, and may include the USDA Organic Seal and/or the organic claim.

For multi-ingredient products in the “made with” organic category, at least 70 percent of the product must be certified organic ingredients.  The organic seal cannot be used on the product, and the final product cannot be represented as organic – only up to three ingredients or ingredient categories can be represented as organic.  Any remaining ingredients are not required to be organically produced but must be produced without excluded methods (genetic engineering). All non-agricultural products must be allowed on the National List.  For example, processed organic foods may contain some approved non-agricultural ingredients, like enzymes in yogurt, pectin in fruit jams, or baking soda in baked goods.

Multi-ingredient products with less than 70 percent certified organic content would fall under the “specific organic ingredients,” and don’t need to be certified. These products cannot display the USDA Organic Seal or use the word organic on the principal display panel.  They can list certified organic ingredients in the ingredient list and the percentage of organic ingredients.

Becoming familiar with organic labelling allows consumers to make informed decisions about the products they purchase.  Consumers can be assured that the integrity of USDA organic products are verified from farm to market. You can learn more about organic labelling by visiting: Labeling Organic Products.pdf.


NATRUE is a Brussels based international non-profit association committed to promoting and protecting Natural and Organic Cosmetics worldwide. Founded in 2007, we provide a home to all true friends of Natural and Organic Cosmetics and embrace all who commit to our high standards of quality and integrity.

The NATRUE Label sets a high standard when it comes to defining the naturalness of cosmetic products. It helps consumers identify Natural and Organic Cosmetics truly worthy of that name.

To date, thousands of products worldwide carry the NATRUE Label and many more are in the process of certification.

When the NATRUE Label appears on a package, you can be sure that the product it contains is not only compliant with a strict standard but also that a reliable certification process has been carried out by independent certification bodies which are themselves subjected to a rigorous accreditation process with NATRUE’s partner IOAS.

  • NATRUE defines its Label Criteria through an independent Scientific Committee – which ingredients are or are not accepted, minimum and maximum thresholds guaranteeing maximum naturalness and minimum derived natural ingredients are set
  • NATRUE Approved Certifiers – independent bodies in charge of certification activities (food, cosmetics, textile, sustainability standards etc.)
  • The verification of whether the products comply with the NATRUE Criteria or not by the NATRUE Approved Certifiers – a two-phase process – a formulation and ingredients audit followed by an on-site production inspection. Re-certification takes place every two years
  • IOAS – inspect the certification bodies on a four-yearly cycle, making sure that the NATRUE Approved Certifiers are competent enough to perform NATRUE’s certification activities.

Soil Association

No system of farming has higher levels of animal welfare than organic farms working to Soil Association standards. Their organic standards use the EU organic regulation as their baseline, but in many cases their standards are more robust.

Organic cosmetic products contain ingredients which come from plants and other natural products, such as minerals. To make sure that a product works and doesn’t go ‘off’, some natural ingredients need to be changed. Some of these changes are simple physical processes, such as chopping, blending or combining – ingredients which have undergone these types of processes are known as Physically Processed Agro-Ingredients (PPAI).

Other ingredients undergo chemical changes, for example, heating or boiling, oxidation (adding oxygen) or other chemical reactions. These are known as Chemically Processed Agro-Ingredients. The physical and chemical processes which are permitted in COSMOS are carefully scrutinised to make sure that only the most sustainable types are allowed, in line with the principle of Green Chemistry.

Outside of the EU they apply the International Accredited Certification Bodies Equivalent European Union Organic Production & Processing Standard for Third Countries (IACB Standard).  It has been adapted from the European Regulations (EC) 834/2007 and the more detailed implementing rules in (EC) 889/2008 to provide a base standard for the Accredited Certification Bodies and their certified organic operators (producers, processors and traders) working outside the European Union. This standard provides the base line EU Regulation requirements.


CERES – CERtification of Environmental Standards refers to “Ceres”, the ancient Roman goddess of agriculture, who was equivalent to the Greek goddess Demeter. She represented the plenitude of crops and was a symbol for soil fertility.

CERES conducts inspections and offers certification according to different governmental organic standards, such as regulation EEC 834/07, USDA-NOP Final Rule, and the Japanese Agricultural Standard for the Production of Organic Foodstuffs (JAS). Additionally, CERES provides inspection services for several national and international private standards of farmers’ associations and certification bodies (Demeter, Naturland, BIO SUISSE, etc). With Soil Association Certification of the United Kingdom, CERES has signed a “Contract for Symbol Programme Product Acceptance”.

CERES is accredited/registered to certify according to the following standards: Regulation (EC) 834/07,
NOP (see USDA website),
JAS Organic,
C.A.F.E. Practices,
and TESCO Nurture.




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The AISBL was founded in 2010 by the five main European (and international) organisations involved with organic and natural cosmetics standards:  BDIH in Germany, Cosmebio and Ecocert in France, ICEA in Italy, and Soil Association in the UK.  They recognised that the cosmetics market and the cosmetics industry are both international, and therefore both consumers and companies are best served by a single international standard, as this is the only way to ensure the same clarity, integrity and consumer trust in all countries and markets, coupled with manufacturing efficiency and sustainable development.

These organisations therefore came together in a spirit of cooperation for the public good to develop the COSMOS-standard.  Once established they formed a non-profit international association to own, manage and develop the Standard, to be independent and open to all.

* AISBL stands for ’Association Internationale Sans But Lucratif’ (English translation: international association without lucrative purpose) and is the formal designation for such organisations under Belgian law.

What they do

As we (in other words, all our members) own the COSMOS-standard, our main work is to manage, promote and protect it.  We do this by authorising and overseeing high quality and harmonised certification using well defined, comprehensive and independent procedures.  Thus you can be assured that any COSMOS ORGANIC and COSMOS NATURAL product has been produced and manufactured in accordance with our strict standards and has been certified as such by a competent and professional certification body which itself has been approved by an independent accreditation body.

But the COSMOS-standard is also progressive.  The organic and natural cosmetics industry is still small and relatively new, and its requirements are already a big step up from conventional cosmetics.  However, there is still a long way to go to achieve more organic ingredients and more environmentally friendly manufacturing.  Therefore the Standard includes progressive steps in that direction and our aim is to continue this process as technology development and more widespread organic farming allow.

Of course, organic and natural cosmetics don’t operate in a vacuum – they are influenced by both government policy and consumer interest and demand.  Therefore we also provide representation, communication and information exchange between members and other stakeholders with the aim of improving the policy environment for organic and natural cosmetics and to foster wider public awareness.

Why choose COSMOS?

They are independent and proud of it, owned by associations that support our aims, not by companies with commercial interest. Their roots are deep in the organic farming movement and in the ethos of natural cosmetics. They work in the public interest for a better environment, for better products with more organic content that consumers can trust, therefore for a better market.


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