Sunday, March 20, 2011

Marketplace: Lousy Labels

Marketplace (CBC TV, click here to see the episode) ran an episode on Friday night all about poor labelling and those companies that try to make us think they are green, natural, or organic. I thought this would be an interesting show because I am getting so sick and tired of seeing the word "natural" on every product from body care products to diapers to dog food to windshield washer (okay, that last one was a lie, but the rest of them are true).

Their expert is a woman whose claim to fame is that she is an "avid label reader" and the author of a book on living green, as opposed to a cosmetic chemist or someone who could actually pronounce the ingredients she was maligning. Instead of explaining why the product shouldn't be called green or natural, the expert made comments I thought she wasn't qualified to make like parabens being estrogenic or that siloxane (cyclomethicone) has been banned by Health Canada (which it most certainly has not!) If you're interested, click here and scroll down for Health Canada's take on parabens and silicones. 

I think the points they make on the show are great - yes, we need to read labels and yes, we need to be aware of the ingredients in products - but I thought the expert made comments that weren't factual, the show didn't actually give us some ideas of ingredients we should look out for in products, and we didn't get any real information as to why these products aren't considered green or natural. I thought the host's comments about putting the responsibility on the customer was valid, but I think we as consumers need to take some responsibility for learning a little more about the products we buy. 

I'm not saying that we need to spend every waking moment learning chemistry and researching ingredients - not mentioning any names around here! - but if living green or natural is so important to someone, I don't think it's asking much to learn a little more about what we're putting on and into our bodies or homes. I get so frustrated by the bastardization of the word natural and frustrated by all the false claims about being organic or green or "good for you", so I'm glad to see a show of this nature. But I wouldn't have learned a thing about how to analyze labels, watch for those products, and avoid paying a fortune for false claims, and that's what this show used to be about! 

I used to love this show but I was disappointed to see it now airs with commercial breaks (they used to keep it ad free so they could remain unbiased and unpressured) and I miss Wendy Mesley! 


Nancy Liedel said...

I would love to use more post consumer packaging, but it's not really easy to find and it's not cost effective. So, for bath salts, I can send a refill kit and use Glass, or Plastic, whatever the customer wants and do it cheaper. I don't know what else to do.

Thank you for this outstanding series. I know you said, right up in the beginning Cosmo's are not your bag, but you really opened my eyes to a whole new world and I research for hours and hours before even ordering something. This has been a fantastic series and I honestly appreciate it.


zaczarowany pierniczek said...

Can someone expalain to me what, according to this woman, is "wrong" with Aubrey Organics shampoo? Perhaps my english is too poor to get it, but I really don't understand what is organic and what is natural for her in this particular shampoo, maybe deionized water isn't organic, lol?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi zaczarowany. You've addressed my issue with your question. I don't know what is wrong with this specific product in their eyes, and they didn't give us enough information to make informed decisions. (Having said this, I have a lot of issues with Aubrey Organics products, but I don't care if they're organic or not.) I said the same thing to my husband - doesn't water count as organic?

Normally Marketplace is good at giving us advice on what to look for or how to avoid problems, but it seemed like they were more worried about covering all 10 products.

Randi Carr said...

I saw the episode too, Susan. I was extremely irritated about it, and agree with you.

Tara said...

Susan, what is your issue with Aubrey Organics? I am not interested because I have a personal affinity with the brand, but mostly because your points of view amuse me and make me think!

SL Meyer said...

"I said the same thing to my husband - doesn't water count as organic?" Actually, no. Water is organic, as in an organic compound ie: organic chemistry. However water, by itself, cannot be organic, as in the NOP standards for Certified Organic. You can do hydrosols and get a NOP CO. There are products that use those and count that as the main part of their "organic" ingredient content. Used to be you couldn't. (big bruha over that with the Dr. B soap people and others mad about it.) Water in and of itself cannot be a NOP CO product.

And Aubrey, if you didn't know it has had for many years a long known issue of misleading ingredients list. For a while, the FDA was constantly on their case about it.

chowsr said...

After reading your post I couldn't bring myself to watch the episode. I'm quite new to your blog, so I don't know if you've bothered dispelling some of the paraben myths.
@SL Myer Water is an inorganic compound (H2O) translation contains no carbon. Organic chemistry involves carbon. Inorganic chem deals with the rest of the periodic table.

Cosmetics are pretty safe considering some of the industries I've worked in as a chemist. I research certain things, more because I'm interested in how the properties will affect my final product. From the structure you can get a pretty good idea of how it'll work.


SL Meyer said...

My bad! I stand corrected. Left off the "in" by mistake. (arthritis hands whip me some days) That said, water by and of itself cannot be "organic", per the legal standard of the USDA NOP CO regulations.