The Honest Company, co-founded in 2012 by Jessica Alba, is being sued for $5 million for “deceptively and misleadingly” labeling and marketing its products as “natural.” The suit was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California on September 3 and alleges several of the company’s products contain “synthetic ingredients.” Products included in the suit are Honest Hand Soap, Honest Diapers, and Honest Multi-Surface Cleaner. The suit also alleges the company’s sunscreen is ineffective and its products are more expensive, at a 10 to 20 percent premium, than other products marketed as natural.
The company has denied all of the allegations and in August issued a statement standing behind its sunscreen after several complaints on social media. The company claims its sunscreen has been tested by an independent third party and is effective for 80 minutes. Jessica Alba says the lawsuit is “baseless and without merit” and claims the company’s sunscreen is in accordance with FDA regulations when used as directed.
Earlier this yearChurch & Dwight settled a class action lawsuit alleging its Arm & Hammer Natural Deodorant contained an antibacterial ingredient, triclosan. While the product was marked to be “natural” the antibacterial ingredient made that label false. Church & Dwight paid all members of the class who properly submitted claims $4 for each unit purchased. The named plaintiff in the Honest Company suit, Jonathan D. Rubin, also seeks to get the suit certified as a class action.
The FDA does not regular the term “natural” on cosmetic, cleaning, or food labels. The FDA has no set definition of “natural” for any of these categories. The FDA does say, however, labeling, whether it is natural or not, must be truthful and cannot be misleading. The FDA also does not define “organic” in relation to cosmetics.
Lack of government oversight and regulations is why consumers must often step up and file lawsuits to expose deceptive practices, such as false labeling. After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.