Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal of Organic Baby Formula Suit
A California appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that infant formula was mislabeled because it contained synthetic ingredients, ruling that the plaintiff’s state law claim was preempted by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). Organic Consumers Assoc. v. Honest Co. Inc., No. B280836 (Cal. App. Ct., entered June 12, 2018). The advocacy group alleged that the formula contains synthetic ingredients not permitted in organic products under OFPA, thus violating the California Organic Products Act (COPA).
“Association’s complaint does not allege that Honest is selling its premium infant formula without having gone through the organic certification process,” the court found. “Nor are there any allegations of misconduct by Honest in obtaining or using its organic certification. Rather, the gravamen of Association’s single cause of action under the COPA is that Honest is labeling as organic infant formula that is not in fact organic.” The court found this claim preempted by federal law. “If, as Association contends, the COPA permits private plaintiffs to file lawsuits challenging an organic certification issued under federal standards when there are no allegations of intentional fraud, the COPA would undermine the national uniformity provided by Congress in the OFPA and the [National Organic Program] in several key respects.” For example, the court noted, “Allowing lawsuits by private parties that second-guess a certification decision would, in effect, improperly expand this limitation on who can suspend or revoke an organic certification and could result in certifications that are valid in one state but not another.”