USDA will certify organic soaps and cosmetics

In a victory for consumers’ all-natural kissers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided it will allow worthy lip balms, lotions, and other personal-care products to carry the “USDA Organic” label after all, as well as dietary supplements and pet food. The department had decided this spring that while it was well equipped to evaluate the organic purity of milk, meat, and other foods, it wasn’t ready to wade into the worlds of cosmetics and dog chow. David Bronner (of Dr. Bronner’s soap fame) and the Organic Consumers Association sued the agency in June, saying in part that the government’s organic imprimatur is one of the only ways responsible companies can make their products stand out from the “all-natural” hype. The USDA says it’s a daunting task to evaluate the many non-food products desiring certification. “It takes a while to sit down and look at this and say, ‘All right, how do we make this work?’” said Barbara Robinson, head of the department’s National Organic Program. But, in the end, she asked, “What difference does it make if you brush your teeth with it or eat it?”