Jessica Alba's Honest Company Sued Over Organic Infant Formula

A nonprofit alleges that the company "falsely represented" that it's organic.

ByABC News
April 27, 2016, 4:52 PM

— -- Jessica Alba's The Honest Company has been hit with another lawsuit that criticizes the brand's claims.

The nonprofit, politically active group Organic Consumers Association filed a lawsuit earlier this month with the Los Angeles Superior Court alleging that Honest violates the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 and the California Organic Products Act of 2003 by claiming its Premium Infant Formula is organic.

"The Honest Co. is falsely representing its Premium Infant Formula as 'organic' even though this product contains 11 synthetic substances prohibited under federal law in organic products," Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association, told ABC News. "This is unacceptable."

The California Organic Products Act points to a list of certain nonagricultural substances that can be included in products sold as organic, as adopted by the United States Secretary of Agriculture in Section 6517 of the U.S. Code based on a proposed list from the National Organic Standards Board. But the lawsuit alleges 11 ingredients in Honest's Premium Infant Formula aren't included on that national list.

Previous lawsuits have been filed against Honest over its sunscreen and cleaning products. The company said in response to the lawsuits at the time that the allegations of both lawsuits were "without merit."

Among the ingredients the infant formula lawsuit lists is taurine, which the National Organic Standards Board declined to add to the national list in July 2012. At the time, the synthetic form was petitioned for use in infant formula "because insufficient taurine could result in subpar fat digestion and absorption in infants." The board explained when it chose not to recommend taurine to the list, "Taurine can be made or extracted from non-synthetic sources, although apparently available only in small amounts at this time. Although essential for cats and thus added to cat pet food, taurine is considered a non-essential human dietary supplement."

Paul said she wants Honest to remove the word "organic" from the infant formula label or remove the ingredients.

A statement from The Honest Company read, "Our Organic Infant Formula is cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and meets all safety and nutritional standards. 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 nonprofit is also suing Hain Celestial Group, alleging that company has "falsely labeled products" that include Earth's Best organic infant formulas and organic toddler formula. That lawsuit, filed earlier this month in the District of Columbia's Superior Court, alleges the company violates the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

A statement from a Hain Celestial Group spokeswoman read, "Earth’s Best Organic infant formulas fully comply with the USDA’s National Organic Program standards. An independent organic certifier, acting as an agent for the USDA, has certified that the formulas qualify as organic under federal law. Contrary to [Organic Consumer Association's] allegations, all the ingredients named in the lawsuit are approved for use today in organic infant formulas, and we are therefore confident that the court will dismiss this lawsuit."

When asked about Earth's Best use of taurine in infant formula, a spokeswoman for Hain Celestial told ABC News, “Taurine has been, and continues to be, permitted in organic formula as a ‘nutrient vitamin and mineral’ unless and until the USDA issues a final rule otherwise – a fact that both the USDA and the [National Organic Standards Board]reconfirmed as recently as the NOSB’s Fall 2015 meeting.”