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Jennifer Chait

Center for Environmental Health Files Lawsuit Against Mislabeled “Organic” Personal Care Products

By June 19, 2011

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The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) filed a lawsuit this week against numerous companies who make fake organic product claims.

As you likely know, there are zero watchdogs within the USDA National Organic Program when it comes to body care products. That said, if you're a California retailer or manufacturers, you must abide by The California Organic Products Act of 2003, which says that if a product packaging uses the term "organic" on the front that the product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. If a product contains less than 70% organic ingredients then the term "organic" is only allowed on the ingredient list. Not the best rules, but hey, better than nothing.

Recently CEH took some little shopping trips to Target, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Whole Foods, and local natural products retailers in the Bay Area, and found dozens of products made by 26 companies that were labeled as "organic" yet contain few or, in some cases, no organic ingredients. Hence the lawsuit. Nature's Baby Products, Hain Celestial Group, Aubrey Organics, Kiss My Face are just some of the companies coming under fire.

CEH notes that worse than the mislabeling is the fact that some of the "organic" labeled products contain ingredients linked to health concerns. CEH points out:

"For example, a "Kids Hair Softening System" made by the company "Organics by Africa's Best" contains BHA and cocamide DEA, chemicals that have been classified as cancer-causing by government agencies, triethanolamine, which has caused asthma in exposed workers, and parabens, chemicals that have disrupted hormones in laboratory tests. The package, colorfully decorated with images of young girls, warns: "Keep away from eyes. Can cause blindness...Serious injury can result...if ingested..." and "Keep out of reach of children."

Lovely. The worst part about this whole situation is that it makes organics look shady and breaks down consumer trust of organics and in many cases totally tricks consumers. For example, look at this little KTVU video clip about this situation and watch for when consumers say they think they can trust labels. Not in this case. All the more reason to get certified if you're not or to be honest with your organic product labeling.

See the full list of companies that CEH has identified in their lawsuit.

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