Thirty Four Cosmetic Companies Sued Over “Organic” Labels

June 22, 2011

By Riëtte van Laack

Although there are currently no federal standards governing the labeling of organic cosmetics, cosmetic products sold in California are subject to the California Organic Products Act of 2003 (“COPA”).  Under this law, cosmetics labeled or represented as "organic" must contain at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients. Cal. Health &  Safety Code § 110838(a).  Cosmetics with “less than 70 percent organically produced ingredients, . . . may only identify the organic content" if each organic ingredient is identified in the ingredient statement as "organic" or if the "product's percentage of organic contents" is indicated "on the information panel."  Id. § 110839.  The percentage of organic material in a cosmetic product must be determined by dividing the weight of the ingredients, excluding water and salt, by the total weight of the product, excluding water and salt. 

COPA gives any person standing to file an action to enjoin a party from violating COPA.  Moreover, in an action for injunctive relief, a plaintiff is not required to show injury or damages.

According to a complaint filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, by the Center for Environmental Health (“CEH”), at least 34 cosmetic companies sell cosmetic products in California that are labeled as organic yet do not contain 70% or more organic ingredients (CEH identifies itself as a non-profit corporation that is concerned about products that are misrepresented as organic).  CEH estimated the percentage of organic ingredients in defendants’ products based on the defendants’ product ingredient statements.  Allegedly, based on the ingredient statements, some of the defendants’ products do not contain any organic ingredients at all.

In addition to a permanent injunction, CEH asks for attorney fees and costs.

Categories: Cosmetics