Commentary On Natural Foods Merchandiser Article About SCA 2010

by Donna Maria on August 4, 2010 · View Comments

Marla Bosworth at Back Porch Soap just Tweeted the publication of this article at the Natural Foods Merchandiser website.

I just submitted a comment, and it has been accepted at their site, but it did not preserve my line and paragraph breaks so it is virtually illegible. I thought it would be a good idea to duplicate it here for you to read more easily. Here is what I just submitted, word-for-word.

While “Safe Cosmetics Act” sounds like a good bill, and while everyone, including me and the members of the small cosmetics trade organization I lead (the Indie Beauty Network) are in favor of safe cosmetics, this bill is not the way to get there. I agree with Fabricant that it is indeed throwing the baby out with the bath water.

It is also a legislative pink slip for our nation’s tiny cosmetics companies whose business are their only source of income, and they are using safe ingredients already.

Here are some points:

1. The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics and Environmental Working Group are using unfair scare tactics in the form of cartoon videos and skulls and crossbones to tout their studies as scientific fact. They have convinced the co-sponsors of this bill that incomplete supposition is enough to overhaul an entire industry, and then worry about the devastating impact on the economy, the industry and consumers later.

2. The bill, as written, forces companies to give consumers what amounts to a booklet as a cosmetic ingredient label. An ingredient declaration for a product containing only 3 ingredients, for example: cocoa butter, lavender essential oil and olive oil, would be a full page long at least, and would contain information that consumers don’t know how to interpret anyway.

3. The testing requirements are overly burdensome and not narrowly tailored to be helpful. Today’s technology can detect trace elements down to parts per billion, so under this law, if there is a smidgen of anything in a product, and you have to put that on a label, you will go out of business – and fast. And small companies cannot afford the unnecessary tests in the first place. Moreover, every natural ingredient known to man contains some elements which can be toxic if not used properly. (Water, for example, can be toxic if you drink too much of it, and water contains lead.)

The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics is telling small companies not to worry, because the big companies will share their testing data with them. I find that a bit funny — to think that large companies paying chemists multiple millions of dollars for their expertise will simply pass all of their competitive data to the FDA, to then be shared with small companies who will use that data to compete with them. And even if the larger companies were required to do this, and did it, who would the small companies hire to interpret all of the unnecessary data that would be dumped on them? Would it be required to be written in a way that non-chemists could understand and make useful? There is nothing is the bill addressing this very important issue. Small companies don’t have the ability to hire people to interpret that data, which means it would even more useless.

4. The reporting and registration requirements are nonsensical. The bill calls for companies to report the number of workers they have and the names and addresses of all of their suppliers. Imagine being a small business owner, and having to report to the FDA each time you hire or fire someone, and each time you substitute a new supplier for an ingredient used in your products. This bill also calls for companies to report their gross sales receipts. For a small business owner, all of this reporting does nothing at all to help them make safer cosmetics. In fact, it takes their attention away from it.

5. The “exemption” is meaningless. There is much being said about how “fair” and “small business friendly” it is to exempt companies making less than $1M a year from the annual user fees called for in this legislation. This is an exemption without meaning for several reasons. First, the bill does not say what the fee will be, and no one (big or small) can plan a business if they know the federal government can assess, at any time on them, a tax that forces them to subsidize an entire industry. Second, the increased costs of larger companies not subject to the exemption will be passed onto smaller companies, to then be passed on to consumers. This means the small companies will pay more for supplies, thus raising their costs anyway. Of course they then have to pass this onto their customers, who will buy less products because they will be so much more expensive.

6. The “Savings Clause” in the bill says that all 50 states, all municipalities in this country and all “tribes” can impose laws more stringent that what is contained in this bill.

If you want to see a small industry decimated in one fell swoop, tell the men and women participating in it they have to comply with 50 state cosmetics laws in order to sell the exact same product in Oregon as they do in Maine, or risk losing their ability to sell cosmetics legally in this country.

H.R. 5786 may be a well-meaning attempt to ensure consumer safety. But the special interest groups behind it are using the political process for their own selfish means. They are telling small business owners not to worry because bills are never passed into law in their original form. They are saying that everyone will be able to say what’s good, say what’s bad, and then we’ll all come up with a reasonable compromise. The problem with that logic is that it requires small companies to stop making products so they can try to participate in a process that is stacked against them from the start. Shall we just step aside and let EWG and the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics speak for us? We cannot do that, considering that their cartoon videos tell consumers that our products are slowly killing them.

It would be unfair even if the bill was necessary. But the bill is not necessary because cosmetics in this country are overwhelmingly safe now. To slam small companies that have created safe products under current law in this way is simply unconscionable.

The people managing the small businesses in this nation are the backbone of the American economy. Tiny companies in the cosmetics industry are bringing manufacturing back to America. They are nearly all women-owned. The largest proportion of their staffs and vendors are also woman-owned companies. They cannot get loans to grow their businesses. Their credit cards, if they have them, are virtually useless. Yet they are bootstrapping businesses every day so they can pay their bills, take care of their children and plan for their future.

In an economy that desperately needs their contribution, they are being told that they don’t count.

H.R. 5786 is a legislative pink slip for people who have watched banks be bailed out and automakers enjoy multi-billion dollar loans to rebuild the American auto manufacturing industry.

They are working hard, not to get rich, but to take care of themselves and their family members, to sell products at local farmer’s markets, to open local stores on Main Street, which without the would be even more of a ghost town than it is now.

I was on Capitol Hill earlier this week to meet with legislative staffers of the co-sponsors of this bill. The staffers welcomed me, along with representatives from the Handcrafted SoapMakers Guild and other companies who are building the small scale cosmetics manufacturing industry. We spent our own money because the companies we represent do not have the money to participate meaningfully in this process.

We do have have a big lobbying firm. We do not have attorneys. We have just ourselves and our families, and we are advocating for them.

We are doing all we can to make our voices heard, and being able to leave a comment at this blog post is a part of that.

Thank you for the forum. If you would like to speak with small business owners about how this bill would unfairly affect them without any benefit at all to the American public, please let me know.

Donna Maria Coles Johnson
Founder, Indie Beauty Network

What do you think?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marla Bosworth August 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Thank, Donna Maria. I'm hoping that our comments are truly just pending moderation on the Natural Foods Merchandiser site and that they will show up soon.


2 Erin August 4, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Anyone supporting this bill but saying in the same breath that it certainly needs to have some changes made, shouldn't be supporting this bill. Anyone saying they don't want chemicals in their products should look up the definition of chemical. And anyone with fingers to type, should be contacting their suppliers, representatives, customers, family, etc., and encouraging them to help us fight this overreaching, unnecessarily restrictive and regulatory bill.


3 Anne-Marie August 4, 2010 at 6:03 pm

I submitted a comment as well. The bill is well meaning but unfortunately, written in a way that makes cosmetics be regulated more heavily than food.


4 Scandle Candle August 4, 2010 at 6:09 pm

As always, Donna, well said. I appreciate the efforts of you and everyone that opposes this act and know that together we can rise above this.


5 Theresia Kelly August 4, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I'm in agreement with your assertions. Well said.


6 Terressentials August 5, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Excellent post, DM! Thanks for your vigilance. Hopefully, working together, we can stop this situation from turning into another Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act fiasco.


7 Ann August 5, 2010 at 3:43 pm

This is what a free nation is all about. People with means speaking out for what is fair and what is right, for those of us without a financial means to do so. Thank you all, we support and appreciate all your efforts, we are your cheerleaders.


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