Certified Organic | what it really means

certified organic cosmetic herbal ingredients. Image courtesy of farmeceut.org

Organic, certified organic, Australian Certified Organic… there is consumer confusion over the meaning of different organic claims within Australia, and even more so in other countries around the world. We look at what it means to claim “certified organic”.

There are numerous organic certifiers around the world, and every one certifies cosmetic products to a different set of standards. So it’s hardly surprising there is confusion around what the different symbols mean, and what constitutes ‘certified organic’.

Organic v natural

The term ‘organic’ means much more than just ‘natural’.

A product can be 100% natural, but if it has been farmed using conventional methods, such as using pesticides and chemical fertilisers, it is not organic.

Organic farming is an innovative method of growing and producing crops. It takes an earth-friendly, holistic approach without resorting to the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers or genetically modified organisms (GMO).

When a product claims to be certified organic, the ingredients in that product are grown, manufactured and processed using organic methods.

ACO = stamp of integrity

Australian certified organic logoIn Australia, the only way to guarantee a product that is claiming to be organic is, in fact, genuinely organic, is to look for the Australian Certified Organic (ACO) logo.

The Australian Certified Organic Standard is one of the most rigorous standards for organic production in the world.

ACO certifies organic cosmetics under the Australian National Standard, National Organic Program (USDA) and COSMOS standards. Although each standard has stringent organic standards for cosmetics internationally, they all have different characteristics and requirements.

So consumers buying a product with the ACO logo are assured it has met rigorous certification checks and complies with strict ACO standard requirements.

Types of organic claims in Australia

Organic claims differ according to the amount of non-organic ingredients in the product.

  • 100% certified organic content can claim “100% organic” + ACO logo
  • 95-100% certified organic content can claim “certified organic” + ACO logo
  • 70-95% certified organic content can claim “made with certified organic ingredients” + certification number (exception for cosmetics). These products can NOT use the ACO logo
  • <70% certified organic content can NOT make any certification claims or use logo, but can list ingredients as “organic”


USDA certified organicUSDA (US Department of Agriculture) organic certification is a United States process for producers of organic food and other organic products, including personal care.

Food products claiming to be organic must meet the USDA’s National Organic Program’s (NOP) strict standards before they can claim to be organic and display the USDA organic seal.

However, when it comes to cosmetics, the definitions aren’t as clear, as the USDA doesn’t have the same control over personal care products as it does food.

Therefore, you may find shampoo, skincare, makeup and other personal care items manufactured in the US claiming to be organic, but if they don’t carry the USDA organic seal, you probably aren’t buying the genuine article.

Image courtesy of https://botanifique.com/

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