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Preparing to take the formidable path toward certified organic accreditation

Written by Simone Froley

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Posted on August 21 2014

Thirty years ago— two decades before this business was born—I would have never believed I would one day be headed down the long road paved with massive accounting procedures & inspection processes, toward organic certification.

Without understanding what “organic” actually meant, a very younger version of myself would question suspiciously. “Isn't that just an excuse to charge more money?” Yet, here I am pursuing it with a cognizance passion and, when all is said and done, my soaps will be CDFA registered & organic certified through CCOF, an NOP (USDA) accredited certifier based in Santa Cruz.

Of course, my devoted customers know that I always work above and beyond to provide superior quality ingredients for my soap and skin care products, but I’m taking the steps to organic certification because new customers might not necessarily know that.  Also, it might be nice to get that third party stamp of approval after all these years of doing business! 

One thing that’s important to note here is that because soap making relies on (notably inorganic) alkalis in its production, it’s actually impossible for any soap product to receive the full USDA organic label. The NOP requires that at least 95 percent of a product’s ingredients be organic, including naturally inorganic substances such as the alkali needed for soap making along with any wild harvested flora & essential oils. So while there is nothing harmful about these ingredients (Kosher certified food grade sodium hydroxide, for example, is used to soften olives and to provide a glaze for pretzels) they simply can’t be factored as organic. 

So how am I going to get organic certification? My finished soap contains 85 percent organic ingredients while the other 15 percent is comprised of NOP approved non-organic substances (the aforementioned wild harvested botanicals & Kosher certified alkali). The CCOF and USDA will permit me to place the official CCOF Organic Certification Stamp with the wording “Made with Organic Ingredients” on each of my products based on the high percentage of organic ingredients included.

However, there is a lot that needs to be done before this can happen. Like the paperwork, oh my! I am required to keep certification sheets detailing each ingredient purchased from each supplier I work with and must carry a copy of their current organic certification inspection sheets as well. At the moment, I am setting up and practicing an ordered paper trail that documents the ingredients’ path from the ground to me. Then onward to get registered with the state and then certified.

My studio, my records, and my products will have set & random inspections so CDFA & CCOF can ensure I am doing everything the way I say I am. It’s interesting to note that there currently is no certification process for soaps or cosmetics so my products will be held up to the same rigors that food products are required to meet. Since I have always said "you shouldn't be putting anything on your skin that you wouldn't eat", this works for me just fine!

Right now my focus is just on my soaps. Eventually, I will work on certifying my entire product line, some of should even achieve the full USDA organic label.