The issue? Misleading use of the term "organic."
Companies including Hain Celestial Group's Jasön Pure Natural and Organic and Avalon Organics, Kiss My Face Corp, Levlad LLC's Nature's Gate Organics, YSL Beauté Inc.'s Stella McCartney Care 100% Organic Active Ingredients and Physicians' Formula Holdings' Organic Wear have been sued for their alleged misuse of the organic term.
The suit states that the products in question have the word "organic" in their name, yet don't have a single certified organic product in their formulation, WWD reports today.
As for the brands wearing the boxing gloves – Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, Intelligent Nutrients, Organic Essence and the Organic Consumers Association came together to file the complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program.
"All kinds of conventional products are being marketed as organic, and no one is watching what's going into those products. Consumers need to believe that the organic standard is trustworthy. This fraud will degrade consumer perception of organic in general," says Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director for the Organic Consumers Association.
Horst Rechelbacher – who has spent a lifetime sourcing natural ingredients and is founder of Intelligent Nutrients as well as founding former owner of Aveda, agrees.
"Consumers are being ripped off by marketers who don't want to go the extra mile to be organic certified. It's definitely damaging, and it's going to create consumer confusion. Then it will create consumer distrust," says Rechelbacher.
But some disagree, citing concerns that stringent regulations could squash business expansion and innovation in the field. Assistant General Counsel for the Personal Care Products Council Farah Ahmed says that consumers can look for any of the established and respected certifications for organic claims that exist aside from the official seal of the USDA.
Yet many brands who are genuinely organic feel that the extra time and costs of sourcing 100 percent organic ingredients should be distinctly recognized.
"We're on the shelf competing with all this 'organic' noise," says David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. "We're being harmed. Any true organic firm is. And the consumer is being misled."