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California files lawsuit against mislabelled cosmetics

By Katie Bird , 11-Jun-2008

The Attorney General of California has filed a lawsuit against a number of natural personal care companies whose products allegedly contain levels of a carcinogenic compound.

Avalon Natural products, which manufactures Alba, Un-petroleum and Avalon Organics brands, has been accused of failing to warn consumers that its products contain 1,4-Dioxane.

 

 

 

Consumers not warned about compound

 

 

Under the state's Proposition 65 consumer products should not expose consumers to chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without giving clear and reasonable warning.

 

 

 

The Attorney General of California has accused Avalon Natural, along with the Whole Foods Market California, Beaumont Products and Nutribiotic of failing to give clear and reasonable warning of the presence of 1,4-Dioxane in their products.

 

 

 

According to the Organic Consumers Association the lawsuit is a reaction to a study released by the association back in March, in addition to the state's own testing.

 

 

 

The OCA's campaign highlighted a number of 'fake' natural and organic brands that were found to contain the offending compound which is a by product of ethylene oxide, often used as a surfactant.

 

 

 

"The OCA's 1,4-dioxane study elevated the issue of fake 'natural' and 'organic' brands that utilize petrochemicals in their formulas in March, and now we are seeing labelling enforcement on a scale we have never seen before," said OCA national director Ronnie Cummins.

 

 

 

Although the OCA is unaware of the particular products that have prompted the lawsuit it stated that all the named companies have sold products that tested close to or in excess of 20 parts per million for 1,4-Dioxane in the OCA study.

 

 

 

In July 2007 the FDA released a comment stating that 1,4-dioxane does not pose a hazard to consumers at levels seen it has seen in the monitoring of cosmetics products.

 

 

 

No one at the FDA was available for comment regarding the Californian lawsuit.

 

 

 

Misleading organic branding

 

 

This is not the first time the state of California has seen a lawsuit filed over mislabelling cosmetics products.

 

 

 

Earlier this spring Dr Bronner's Magic Soaps filed a lawsuit in the superior court of California against a number of leading organic and natural brands and two certification bodies regarding the 'mislabelling' of products as organic, but contained conventional petrochemical or agricultural ingredients.

 

 

 

"We have been deeply disappointed and frustrated by companies in the 'natural ' personal care space who have been screwing over organic consumers, engaging in misleading organic branding and label call-outs on products that were not natural in the first place, let alone organic," said president of Dr Bronner's Magic Soaps David Bronner.

 

 

 

The company and the Organic Consumer Association (OCA) had previously warned the brands that if they did not drop organic claims or reformulate their products they would face litigation.

 

 

 

However this approach failed to achieve the desired affect, according to the OCA.

 

 

 

"The pressure of imminent litigation outlines in cease and desist letters sent by OCA and Dr Bronner's in March prompted some serious discussion with some of the offending companies, but ultimately failed to resolve the core issues," said executive director Ronnie Cummins.

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