Saturday, September 24, 2011

Are Your Personal Care Products Safe?

Have you ever tried to read the ingredients on your personal care products only to be confused about what all the technical terms mean? Are the products you use safe to be ingested or absorbed into your body? The Environmental Working Group ( offers the following tips for consideration when making a personal care product purchase.

This non-specific term appears on many labels but can include harmful or allergy-inducing ingredients. To avoid these, look for labels that instead name specific natural fragrances such as lavender, bergamot, or lemongrass). "Tom's of Maine" products utilize natural fragrances in many of their products.

Chemicals such as oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, often found in products with SPF, can cause more harm than good. Opt for products with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or avobenzone at 3%.

Often found in many lotions, this is a big one to avoid. These chemicals (propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, methyl, and isobutyl-parabens are associated with endocrine, reproductive and developmental problems. Look for labels marked "paraben free". Brands such as "Alba" and "Burt's Bees" are good paraben free products.

Triclosan and Triclocarban
These antimicrobial pesticides, which often are found in soaps, toothpaste and deodorant, have been linked to liver problems.

As always, try to eliminate or reduce the amount of products you consume with artificial coloring or flavors. Be on the look out for common artificial color ingredients such as FD&C Blue Numbers 1, 2; Green Number 3, Red Number 40, 3; Yellow Number 5,6.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"Organic" versus "Natural" - What's the Difference?

I am often asked the questions, whether it be from clients, family, or friends, "What is the difference between Organic and Natural foods? Is one better than the other?" With so many products found today in the grocery and health food stores sporting these terms, this topic can be very confusing. Below are some quick facts regarding each term for you to consider when purchasing foods with these labels.

- Regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture via independent auditing agencies
- All products will have above "USDA Organic" emblem that have passed USDA guidelines
- Meat, Dairy and Eggs must be untreated with growth hormones or antibiotics
- Animal feed must be certified organic and free of genetically modified substances
- Fresh produce must be free of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers
- Produce seeds cannot be genetically modified
- Processed foods must be made up of 95-100% organic ingredients to carry label above

- The term "Natural" is not regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or Food and Drug Administration, therefore it is abused by many manufacturers on product packaging
- Inspectors and auditing agencies, IF hired, are done at the manufacturers' / farmers' descretion
- "Natural" is a term used to usually describe a food's lack of preservatives or additives at the time of processing. It may also mean a food is processed less than non-natural labeled foods
- "Natural" foods may contain or have been raised with pesticides or growth hormones.

When it comes down to it, many foods use the term "Natural" as a marketing technique to make the consumer think they are buying a healthier food versus food not carrying the "Natural" label. If the product does not contain the certified organic label above, you can bet there has been some level of modification, pesticide introduction, etc. performed to the food or product somewhere between inception and the grocery store shelf.

Not all "Natural" foods are bad nor deceptive. For example, "Natural" foods can be hormone or cage free (poultry) which is good. If purchasing foods marked "Natural" please read the label and packaging carefully.

If your budget allows, certified organic is your best and safest option. Many grocery stores are beginning to realize the increase in consumer demand for organic products thus making your options greater and costs lower.