The Honest Co., the consumer goods company cofounded by the actress Jessica Alba and whose products include infant formula, isn’t so honest, according to a lawsuit recently filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The company’s Organic Infant Formula contains synthetic ingredients that federal law and California’s Organic Products Act of 2003 do not permit in organic products, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) alleged in the April 6 lawsuit. Eleven of the 40 ingredients in the infant formula are synthetic substances that are not allowed in organic products, according to the complaint.
None of the prohibited ingredients in The Honest Co.’s infant formula appear on a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) list, which specifies non-agricultural ingredients that may be added to organic products, according to the lawsuit.
OCA identified certain ingredients, such as sodium selenite, as hazardous, and alleged “some have not even been assessed as safe for human foods—much less for infant formulas." According to the complaint, The Honest Co.’s infant formula includes the following substances that are not allowed in organic products: sodium selenite, taurine, ascorbyl palmitate, calcium pantothenate, choline bitartrate, cholecalciferol, beta-carotene, biotin, dl-alpha tocopherol, inositol and phytonadione.
The OCA, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group based in Finland, Minnesota, is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of California’s Organic Products Act of 2003.
The Honest Co. responded to the complaint.
"Our Organic Infant Formula is cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and meets all safety and nutritional standards," the company said in a statement. "It is also certified USDA Organic by an independent third party, in strict accordance with the National Organic Program. We are confident this lawsuit will be dismissed."
The OCA also has filed a similar lawsuit against The Hain Celestial Group. The lawsuit, filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court, alleged the company’s Earth’s Best brands, such as Organic Infant Formula and Organic Soy Infant Formula, are falsely labeled organic because they contain non-agricultural and non-organic ingredients.
“No one is more concerned about food labels and ingredients than new mothers responsible for feeding infants whose immune systems and brain development are so underdeveloped and vulnerable," said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director, in an April 23 press release announcing the lawsuits. “As consumers, these mothers must rely on truthful labeling in order to make the best choices for feeding their infants and toddlers. 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."
Hain Celestial Group expressed confidence that the lawsuit would be dismissed.
“Earth’s Best Organic infant formulas fully comply with the USDA’s National Organic Program standards," the company said in a statement. “An independent organic certifier, acting as an agent for the USDA, has certified that the formulas qualify as organic under federal law."