Have you been unsure about an ingredient listed as “derived from” something natural, like coconuts? What does that mean?
Since no industry regulation for the term “organic” exists there is a definite grey area for those cosmetics and bodycare products that claim to be organic, but are not certified to organic food standards. Specifically this ambiguity pertains to ingredient labeling practices and undefined manufacturing standards for products being marketed as all natural and/or organic.
Not only are semi-natural ingredients deceptive, but they also have potential safety concerns. With extensive processing comes the problems of safety and purity associated with many synthetic chemicals, which is precisely what an organic consumer is trying to avoid.
Still confused? We don’t blame you! Lets use an example ingredient from a popular “organic” Baby Shampoo to illustrate the road from coconut oil to chemical.
Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate (from coconut oil)
Sounds natural enough, right? Wrong. To make this ingredient, you begin with raw natural coconut oil. Next comes the extraction process where the oil is separated out for use with petrochemicals and other chemical solvents. The extraction is followed by extensive processing and forced reactions with synthetic chemicals (usually several reactions with several chemicals), which transforms the ingredient until a foam boosting chemical surfactant is produced. This ingredient is being marketed as “from coconut” or “naturally derived” when it is no longer equivalent to coconut oil, but in actuality is a synthetic creation. To put it simply, Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate (from coconut oil) does not grow on coconut trees.
Byproduct Contamination or “Hidden” Ingredients
While an ingredient list will not tell you this information, these overly processed “semi-natural” ingredients are likely to be contaminated with unintended byproducts or petrochemical solvents. An example of this is human carcinogen 1,4 Dioxane, which would not appear on a label as it is not an official ingredient, but can be present in the formula due to processing natural ingredients with synthetic chemicals.
Therefore, even if you are able to identify or nearly identify a product’s ingredients as all natural, you have no access to information on the ingredient’s processing. What kinds of extraction methods or processing methods were used? Did those chemicals contaminate the ingredients? Short of making a personal visit to the company’s manufacturing plant, the only way to know for sure is to look for a certified organic product where chemical processing is forbidden.
A recent study by the Organic Consumers Association on the presence of 1,4 Dioxane exposed many popular “organic” personal care products to be contaminated and also revealed that all Certified Organic products were found to be 1,4 Dioxane free. The standards dictate the certified product’s manufacturing methods must be free of synthetic chemicals, thus the product will be free from chemical contamination or byproducts.