The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has filed lawsuits against The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. and The Honest Co., Inc. alleging the companies’ “organic” infant formula products contain multiple substances prohibited for use in organic food by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Organic Consumers Assoc. v. Hain Celestial Grp., Inc., No. 16-2533 (D.C. Super. Ct., filed April 5, 2016); Organic Consumers Assoc. v. Honest Co., Inc., No. SC125655 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles Cty., filed April 6, 2016).

The lawsuit against Hain Celestial challenges the label claims of its Earth’s Best products, which the complaint argues are all labeled organic despite none meeting federal organic regulations. “Behind the picturesque red barn of the Earth’s Best logo displayed on each of the Falsely Labeled Products lies a chemical soup of synthetic, toxic, and hazardous ingredients,” the complaint argues. “For example, of the 48 ingredients in Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula, more than half are not agricultural and are furthermore not permitted in organic foods by federal law.” Challenged ingredients include ascorbyl palmitate, a preservative; zinc sulfate, “recognized by federal regulations as a hazardous compound”; sodium selenite, “recognized by general regulations as a very toxic and hazardous substance”; calcium pantothenate, which is “synthetically produced from formaldehyde and isobutyraldehyde”; and “other ‘innovative’ ingredients like taurine (whose safety for infants has not been determined.”

The complaint in the lawsuit against The Honest Co. is similar, alleging 11 of the 40 ingredients are synthetic and not permitted in organic products. “Some of these ingredients are federally regulated as hazardous compounds. At least one of these ingredients is irradiated. Finally, some have not even been assessed as safe for human foods—much less for infant formulas,” the complaint asserts. In both lawsuits, OCA seeks injunctions preventing the companies from labeling the products as “organic.”

“Our job as a consumer advocacy group is to call out and hold accountable companies like The Honest Co. and Hain Celestial when they knowingly and intentionally mislead consumers,” OCA’s international director said in an April 26, 2016, press release. “OCA has long been a defender of organic standards, which means also defending the organic label. Our goal with this lawsuit is to force these companies to either comply with USDA organic standards or stop calling their products ‘organic.’”


Issue 602

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.