Dozens of shampoos, lotions, toothpastes,and other personal care products sold by national retailers including Target, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Whole Foods and other stores are mislabeled as organic, in violation of California law, according to a lawsuit filed today by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). Several of the products, including products intended for children, contain potentially toxic ingredients, including chemicals suspected of causing asthma, disrupting hormones, or causing cancer and other health problems.
“For years, organic advocates have called on personal care companies to fix their improper ‘organic’ labels, but our recent purchasing shows the industry is still rife with unsubstantiated organic claims,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “We want to encourage companies to use organic ingredients, and insure that consumers can trust organic labels to be meaningful and consistent.”
The USDA has not created its own rules regarding cosmetic products, but it has approved California’s organics program, including the state’s rules regarding cosmetics and personal care products. The California Organic Products Act of 2003 outlines rules for labeling of organic personal care products, requiring that any product using the term “organic” on the front of the package must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may only use the term “organic” on the ingredient list.
But in its purchasing in May and June, CEH found dozens of products made by 26 companies that are labeled on the front as “organic” yet contain few or, in some cases, no organic ingredients, based on the ingredient lists on the items. Items included products made by major national companies, including Hain-Celestial (one of the largest US organic companies), Alliance Boots (a leading UK cosmetics maker), Kiss My Face, and other major brands. The products were purchased from Target, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Whole Foods, and local natural products retailers in the Bay Area. In addition to the false labeling suit, in May CEH joined with Rosminah Brown in filing a class-action suit against Hain-Celstial for its mislabeled products.
Some of the “organic” labeled products contain ingredients linked to health concerns. 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.”
CEH has a fifteen-year track record of protecting communities from the health impacts of toxic pollution and has uncovered toxic health threats to children from wood playground structures, toys, vinyl baby bibs and lunchboxes, imported candies, children’s jewelry, children’s medicines, and many other products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. Last year the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual “Green Champion” award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.
The full list of companies and their mislabeled products that CEH identified in the lawsuit are listed below (the products listed are just examples; CEH has identified multiple mislabeled products from the companies):
Advantage Research Laboratories, Inc./Murray’s Worldwide, Inc.: Parnevu T-Tree No Lye Conditioning Relaxer System
Aubrey Organics, Inc: Collagen & Almond Enriching Moisturizing Lotion
Beauty Without Cruelty/Lotus Brands, Inc: Organic Aromatherapy Facial Cleanser
Boots Retail USA Inc: Boots Amazon Forest Brazil Nut & Vanilla Body Wash
California Inside & Out, Inc: Out of Africa Handwash Tea Tree with Essential Oil
Colomer U.S.A.: Crème of Nature Kiwi & Citrus Ultra Moisturizing Shampoo
Cosway Company, Inc/Head Organics Company: Clearly Head Conditioner
Curls, LLC: Curlicious Curls Cleansing Cream Organic Shampoo
derma e® Natural Bodycare/Stearns Products, Inc: Psorzema Body Wash
Hain Celestial Group: Jason Thin-to-Thick Conditioner and Baby Avalon Organics Silky Cornstarch Baby Powder
House of Cheatham, Inc: Organics by Africa’s Best Hair Mayonnaise
International Trade Routes of New York, Inc/Laboratorios Phergal: Naturtint Green Technologies Permanent Hair Colorant
Kinky-Curly Hair Care: Kinky-Curly Spiral Spritz
Kiss My Face Corporation: Hold Up Styling Mousse
Lafe’s Natural BodyCare/Lafe T. Larson, Inc: Deodorant Stone With Holder
Morrocco Method, Inc: Euro Organic Oil Simply Pure Hair & Scalp Therapy
Namasté Laboratories: Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Replenishing Pak
Nature’s Baby Products, Inc: Nature’s Baby ORGANICS Shampoo & Body Wash in Vanilla-Tangerine Scent or Lavender-Chamomile Scent
Nubian Heritage Group/Sundial Group LLC: Coconut & Papaya with Vanilla Bean Extract Body Wash
Nutrition Resource, Inc. dba NutriBiotic: NutriBiotic Everyday Clean Conditioner Botanical Blend
Rainbow Research Corporation: Rainbow Baby Oh Baby Unscented Organic Herbal Shampoo
Renpure, L.L.C: Renpure Organics I Love My Hair! Body and Shine Shampoo
Strength of Nature Global, LLC: Elasta QP Intense Fortifying Hair Conditioning Treatment
Sundial Brands/Sundial Group LLC: Shea Moisture Organic Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo
The Himalaya Drug Company: Organique by Himalaya Toothpaste
Todd Christopher International, Inc/Vogue International: Hydrating Teatree Mint Conditioner