Beware Farmers’ Market? Sheesh.

Despite the fact that a farmers’ market conveys the idea that the products sold are sold by farmers themselves, are wholesome, farmer-grown and/or handmade, we cannot assume that that is true. And that is sad to me. We have to be vigilant about what we buy even there!

Case in point: CALOLEA olive oils.  Their oils are extra-virgin and organic.  YUM.  So you’d think their soap would be pretty good stuff. The soap’s label says ‘GLYCERINE & OLIVE OIL COMPLEXION BAR’. And the CALOLEA fellow at the market (the brother of CALOLEA owner Michael Keller) tells customers that the soap contains only three ingredients: their olive oil, glycerine and some natural fragrances.  But this is 100% not true. And worse…. 

None of their skincare product labels nor their website contains a list of any ingredients for their body products. I got the list of ingredients for the glycerine soap from the company however, via email.  And I spoke with co-founder Michele Keller (Michael’s wife) last week.  The soap is made by a chemist, a supplier to them. The soap is not hand made, nor is it made by them.  Worse, it does not appear to have any of their olive oil in it. And even worse, it contains known toxins and skin irritants.

The ingredient list that CALOLEA gave me said that olive oil was an optional ingredient available upon request. HUH?

Michele says that when the chemist makes their soap, that s/he adds CALOLEA olive oil to the product for them, for their private label.  Okay, so that is unprovable at this point, but I want to trust her. But I cannot.  Why?

The ingredient list:

99.9% glycerine

0.1% everything else, a list of 9 ingredients that add up to POINT ONE PERCENT

So even if CALOLEA olive oil is added into the soap, it is around  .01% of the total ingredients.  Huh?!

WORSE: the other 8 ingredients? Safflower and/or coconut oil, sorbitol, sodium laureth sulfate, vegetable stearic, sodium hydroxide, fragrance (not natural, which means phthalates), and FD&C food colorants (which are artificial).

When I buy a ‘natural’ soap from an organic olive oil company at a farmers’ market, I don’t expect their soap to contain known toxins and irritants and artificial color and fragrance and phthaltes. And I do expect their soap to contain meaningful quantities of their olive oil. Shame on the people at CALOLEA!

Over a month ago, I advised them that they should correct their verbal and written marketing about their soaps. I got no response. Worse, last week,the website still had no ingredient information and the brother was still telling customers the soap contains those three products and its pure pure PURE. This is so wrong.

When I spoke with Michelle last week, she still defended her soap and worse, displayed complete ignorance of toxic skin care ingredients and said she fully trusted her ‘chemist’ (her word, not mine).

Note to CALOLEA: if you don’t understand the skincare product manufacturing process and ingredients, you should not be in the business of selling a line of natural/pure skin and hair care products.  Michelle did not even know about the State of California Department of Public Health Safe Cosmetics Program and Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database of all skin and hair care ingredients that are known toxins (this database is a state requirement of the Safe Cosmetics Program).  Huh?!

I don’t understand how they can be an organic olive orchard farmer and olive oil producer AND think it’s okay to diversify their product lines without being informed and careful. Being uninformed is no excuse!

CALOLEA should cease selling body products until they start telling us the truth OR they recall all existing products and create a new line that contains significant portions of their olive oil AND is safe & pure…maybe even organic like their oil (what a concept, right?!).

Yes. I filed a complaint with the FDA who is the sole authority with jurisdiction over companies providing skin care products with misleading (outright lies) product ingredients and marketing. I doubt very seriously that the FDA will allocate resources to this small company and the problem I’ve uncovered.

It’s up to the consumer to beware. It’s up to the consumer to change this.

CALOLEA has shown that they won’t change on their own. The only way they will change is if we are informed, if we make better choices, and if we explain to them why our behavior is changing (and impacting their bottom line).

Stop by the CALOLEA booth each week at our (emphasis on our) farmers’ market, be nice but tell them we don’t like being lied to, and tell them why we refuse to purchase their soap and other body products. In fact, we should boycott all their products–including the organic olive oil–until they change this. Ask them to recall their skin and hair care products until they understand the industry enough to provide us with a safe and pure product.  If enough of us do this, they will change. Honestly, I don’t think these are bad people per se. I think with consumer demand, they will get informed and do a better/honest job.  But this level of carelessness with our bodies’ health and our water’s health (read up on phthalates effect on our fish), has to be addressed.

Footnote: why am I so adamant about honest, safe, pure skin care products?  As a survivor of basel cell carcinoma, I do not want anything on my skin that could contribute to skin cancer.  The ingredients in CALOLEA body products correlate to cancer in some studies. Selling the soap as a 3-ingredient 100% natural and pure product is wrong.  Selling it to someone like me—who has to assess the sum total of the chemical burden placed on my body by the various products I use—, is beyond irresponsible. It actually deserves condemnation. But I’d rather focus on informing CALOLEA, informing fellow customers, and creating positive change.


About Denise Lai

Alive. Swim (fly is the best). Walking with my dog (weims are the best). Life is good. Would prefer people understood negative externalities and prevented themselves from creating them. Feeling the love anyway. View all posts by Denise Lai

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