Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Why this organic food founder is trying to clean up the diaper business

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Babies and toddlers spend their first lives wrapped in diapers, each wearing an average of 2,500 per year. But are these essential products sufficiently regulated?

Not according to Shazi visram, the organic baby food entrepreneur whose new company claims to sell a cleaner diaper. The founder of Happy Family Organics, who in 2013 sold this company to the French food conglomerate Danone for an estimated $ 250-300 million, has since started a new baby products company called Healthynest. On Thursday, the company unveils a disposable diaper that claims to be free of many chemicals and made from plant-based materials, and which fully discloses its ingredient list.

“Your skin is basically your largest organ. It absorbs whatever you put on it… and a baby sits in a diaper for three years, while its brain is forming, ”Visram says. “And there are no regulations on what you can put in that layer.”

At least not from the US Food and Drug Administration, which considered adult diapers to be Medical equipement, but does not include children’s diapers in this definition. Instead, the products are regulated by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an agency that has been subject to some recent reviews for its responses to defective infant products and that does not require manufacturers to publicly disclose the ingredients or materials of their diapers. (In 2010, the agency investigated parents’ complaints that a new line of Pampers diapers was causing rashes in babies, but found no specific cause linking the products to the symptoms.)

A mother of two, Visram has built her career paying attention to the ingredients in everything children otherwise eat and ingest. But her son’s autism diagnosis at the age of two heightened his interest in developing more products that would promote early childhood development and neurological health.

Diapers, as the clothes babies wear for the first few years of life, appeared to be Visram’s next natural product – and a product that regulators in Europe, where its diapers are made, are made. they pushed for stricter rules. Healthynest has now raised an undisclosed sum of money from other celebrities in organic food and entrepreneurship including Spanx Founder Sara Blakely, Siggi Founder Siggi Hilmarsson, Bulletproof Founder Dave Asprey and the chairman of coach Lew Frankfort.

Next, Visram turned to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy organization where she was already on the board, to help her develop third-party certification for her new product. The EWG, known for its Superficial database of ingredients in cosmetics and skin care products, is also on Thursday unveiling its new certification for diapers, starting with Healthynest. To obtain this certification, a diaper manufacturer must limit its use of plastic; ensure that a long list chemicals and materials (including parabens and formaldehyde) are not intentionally added to diapers; and disclose all of its dyes, chemicals, fibers, and other ingredients on the diaper packaging and on the manufacturer’s website.

EWG, which is not a regulator and receives funding companies whose products it evaluates, also collects fees from companies whose products receive its EWG Verified approval. The organization says it is in talks to provide this certification to other, more established diaper manufacturers.

“We hope our standard will lead the industry faster than it could be through a Consumer Product Safety Commission process, and we hope other companies step up to follow Healthynest’s lead,” says Ken Cook, President of EWG.

Visram says his close relationship with the group has made it difficult to meet his standards. We first spoke in August, a week or two before she initially planned to launch her Healthynest diapers. Then the EWG informed it that it needed to obtain additional documentation – not only from its manufacturer, but also up and down its supply chain – to verify that all of its suppliers met the transparency requirements of the EWG.

“It has been such a job. I can’t tell you how difficult it has become to coordinate everything, ”Visram said on Monday, four months after our initial conversation. “But this process really allowed us to verify it in a way I never imagined.”

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