We are proud to say that we do not skimp on our ingredients, and this core value is at the heart of what we strive to provide -- the very best products on the market. This means the ingredients we source are either wild harvested or organic. Our pledge to you is that we only use the very best ingredients available, which often exceed the standards set forth by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Speaking of the USDA...
Cura.Te has been USDA Certified Organic since our company launched in 2018. The certified organic road is challenging; however, at that time and for a while after, I was convinced it was “worth it”.
From who we choose as suppliers, to how we store and handle the ingredients, and throughout the manufacturing and production processes, Cura.Te has operated in a way that meets, or more commonly, exceeds the requirements for achieving the USDA Organic certification. And yet, Cura.Te has recently chosen to discontinue its membership in the USDA Certified Organic Program.
You might be wondering how or why we came to this decision. The short answer is this:
Through this experience we have learned the USDA does not meet Cura.Te’s high standards for being organic. The certification program has several inherent flaws and we are repeatedly being asked to sacrifice the quality and integrity of our products. Essentially, the USDA is trying to hold us to a lower standard. We are not willing to do that.
Continuing to maintain the USDA certification would diminish what we are working hard to do every day. Our basic practices are “beyond organic” as where we start is far above what the USDA requires, or in some cases, even allows. We will remain true to our mission, which includes creating the highest quality products using the highest quality ingredients available.
The long answer follows.
What does it mean to be certified organic, exactly? What does it mean to have that seal? Please know that I am speaking from first-hand experience of what Cura.Te has gone through. I am not speaking in reference to what other companies have experienced.
For us, it started in early 2018 when we knew Cura.Te would be launching later that year. It was really important to me that, as a new business, we achieve the USDA Organic seal of approval and leverage the credibility that the seal carries. Like many people, I shopped for certified organic products and I felt the organic seal would “prove” we are legit.
Having been in business for over 3 years now, successfully completing the certification process, maintaining the certification, and asking a lot of critical questions along the way -- our thoughts and ideas of being certified organic have drastically changed. We have learned that it is unwise to simply take the USDA seal at face value. There are some good things about the program, and then there is the rest of the story...
Since being in the National Organic Program, or NOP (which is what businesses become a part of when they receive the organic certification), I have learned first-hand how it works, and I am here to share why we’ve lost trust in the program.
From the US Department of Agriculture, the “NOP is a federal regulatory program that develops and enforces consistent national standards for organically produced agricultural products sold in the United States. NOP also accredits third-party organizations to certify that farms and businesses meet the national organic standards. These certifiers and USDA work together to enforce the standards, ensuring a level playing field for producers and protecting consumer confidence in the integrity of the USDA Organic Seal.”
So, the NOP accredits third-party organizations to help businesses understand the program and achieve certification through the program. Our third-party certifier was CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers), one of the largest certifying agencies in the country, who certifies nationwide (and not just farmers).
The USDA has regulations for certifying and labeling products based on specific criteria. In order to be certified organic, at least 70% of the product ingredients must be certified organic (not including water and salt). The remaining ingredients must be found on the USDA approved ingredient list.
That all sounds good on the surface, but a deeper dive exposes some real problems. For one, that list contains many ingredients which are highly questionable, harmful, or even toxic; ingredients we would never use in Cura.Te products.
Interestingly, even though our wild harvested ingredients are growing in parts of the world where herbicides, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals are not present, the ingredients cannot be used in certified organic products because they are not found on the USDA’s approved list. Meanwhile, all kinds of nasties are acceptable.
Any products that have less than 70% certified organic ingredients cannot be certified organic. No seal, no label. Take our laundry soap, for example.
Cura.Te’s laundry soap contains our stain stick (organic extra virgin coconut oil, purified water, lye), soda ash, and organic essential oils. Our stain stick can be certified because it has more than 70% organic ingredients. However, because soda ash cannot be certified organic, this drops our percentage of certified organic ingredients below 70%. (Soda ash is baking soda which is heated at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Carbon dioxide and water are given off, leaving sodium carbonate, or soda ash.)
Another example is that the USDA does not want us to use diatomaceous earth. Frequently called DE, diatomaceous earth is a great exfoliant and helps to fight free radicals on the skin. It’s also super absorbent, so it helps to retain the scent from essential oils in the products we create. Over time, we were being told to remove DE from our soap bars in order to maintain our certification. CCOF and the NOP want us to sacrifice the quality and integrity of our products in order to remain certified. That’s not happening.
These are some of the decisions we have had to make, and ultimately, we choose to follow our conscience and look out for our customer’s interests, not the USDA.
We have come to the conclusion that maintaining the USDA certification would diminish what we are working hard to do every day. Our normal operations and business practices are “beyond organic”, as where we start is beyond what the USDA requires, or in some cases, even allows.
Before Cura.Te existed, I made these products for myself and my family, and if you don’t know by now, you should — I have incredibly high standards for what we put INTO and ONTO our bodies. Read more about my story here. And because my heart is to help others who have similar goals and desires, I want to share my passions with the world.
Admittedly, we struggled to make this decision. The difficulty was not in knowing what we should do, but rather in how our customers would respond to the news. We hope you understand our rationale for dropping the certification, and trust that we have your best interests in mind, along with the interests of our family.
For further reading on this topic, you may want to check out why Eden Foods chooses not to be USDA Certified Organic:
Years before the implementation of the National Organic Program (USDA's NOP) in October of 2002, Eden got word in 1992 that a national standard for organic was underway. In theory it seemed like a good idea, but early on we had serious concerns. In the first draft released to the public, the USDA announced its intention to allow food grown in city and industrial sewage sludge, genetically engineered food, and irradiated food to be certified organic. This became infamously known as the 'Big Three.' As deafening public outcry caused the USDA to 'cave,' Eden issued a press release that the struggle to save organic standards was still very much alive. We recognized the 'Big Three' as a common negotiating tactic: Make an offer that is so ridiculously unacceptable that all future offers would seem good by comparison. Our concerns have been realized… more
Lastly, the NOP has been overrun by big corporate influencers and it has affected the integrity of their programs to the point where it is difficult to trust the USDA Seal. One example of this is that CAFOs, (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations... AKA factory farms or mega farms) where animals live in densely packed warehouses with no windows or natural light, and in stalls or cages, or feed lots, are fed (GMO) corn and soy only, and are given antibiotics and growth hormones for fast production, are allowed to be certified under the NOP. Even the smallest CAFO can produce (per day) the amount of urine and feces equivalent to what 16,000 humans would produce per day.
The USDA subsidizes three major GMO crops — corn, canola, and soy, and when certified organic companies pay fees to the USDA, they do not get a say as to where those funds go. We do not wish to continue supporting an organization that subsidizes and helps to spread the growth of these GMO crops — crops which are largely feeding our culture.
Once again, we hope you understand our rationale for dropping the certification, and trust that we have your best interests at heart, along with the interests of our family. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or feedback. We would love to hear from you!