Popular baby wash maker fined over “organic” claims
Consumer Goods June 20, 2018 10:32 pm By Cat Fredenburgh | Melbourne

A popular maker of baby skin products has been fined by the ACCC for claiming its products are organic even though they contain synthetic chemicals.

The ACCC said GAIA Skin Naturals had paid $37,800 in penalties after being hit with three infringement notices for claiming its Natural Baby Bath & Body Wash, Baby Shampoo and Baby Moisturiser products are “pure”, “natural” and “organic” even though they contain the syntetic preservatives sodium hydroxyl methyl glycinate and phenoxyethanol.

The penalty comes as part of a wider probe into organic representations “across a range of businesses and products,” the ACCC said. The ACCC said it had already raised concerns with Naturis Organic Breads over certain products that contain both organic and non-organic ingredients and that Naturis had agreed to change its labels.

“Businesses making organic claims must be able to substantiate those claims. GAIA’s claims may have misled consumers into thinking these products are free from synthetic chemicals when they are not,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

While Australia does not have a mandatory organic certification regime, companies that label non-organic products as organic can be penalised under the Australian Consumer Law.

The ACCC says consumers are willing to pay a premium for organic products and that companies that label their products organic must be able to back the claim up.

Woolworths became a target of the ACCC in March for allegedly making deceptive claims to consumers about the biodegradability of its ‘eco’ line of picnic products.

For a three-year period, bowls, plates and cutlery in Woolworths’ ‘W Select eco’ line were labeled ‘biodegradable and compostable’, but the supermarket giant failed to make reasonable or adequate efforts to substantiate these claims, the ACCC alleged in its lawsuit.

In response, Woolworths said the labels on the products do say they are biodegradable and compostable, but make no claims as to when they will biodegrade.

“‘Biodegradable is an ordinary English word that means ‘capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other organisms’ and distinguishes the select Eco products from other products (such as conventional plastic or metal) that are not capable of being decomposed by bateria or other organisms,” the company told the court.

“‘Biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ are statements about the characteristics or features of the select Eco products. They are not predictions as to the future and are not statements about how long the select Eco products will take to biodegrade.”

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Cat Fredenburgh

Cat Fredenburgh has been covering legal news for 12 years. She was previously Editor-in-Chief at US legal news publication Law360. She is the Co-Founder of Lawyerly.