Unilever being sued over natural claims

PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
I doubt there are any companies that could claim their cosmetic products don't use synthetic ingredients.  But lawyers go where the money is.

http://legalnewsline.com/stories/511119362-unilever-sued-over-natural-claims

Who's next?  Aveeno? Aveda? Say Yes To? Burts Bees?  They all use synthetic ingredients.

Comments

  • I think his claim will fail because he will not be able to prove he has been "damaged" since presumably the products pass FDA guidelines.
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    I disagree. The goal of these lawsuits are to be a nuisance and obtain an out of court settlement. There is a very small likelihood it would ever be argued.
    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Passing FDA guidelines didn't seem to help Johnson & Johnson

    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/05/johnson-johnson-ordered-to-pay-110-million-in-us-talc-powder-trial.html

    These class-action lawsuits are a new way for people to make money off the cosmetic industry. It's happened with brands like Wen & EOS. They simply settled even though there was little evidence the products were to blame for the claims the class-action brought against them.

    It's good to see big guys like J&J don't settle when the science is on their side.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    Yes, hard to imagine someone actually being damaged by purchasing and using a shampoo.

    The broader issue is companies slapping "Natural" on their product labels and in advertising when they know they are also including synthetic ingredients in the product ... that's outright false advertising, consumer fraud, etc.  So, companies that do that are creating their own problems ... there's no one else to blame.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • BobzchemistBobzchemist Member, PCF student
    The legal theory behind these lawsuits is that, in the mind/perception of the consumer, "natural" = "100% natural".

    Prior to this, there was a court-established distinction between "natural", which if I remember right, could have up to 0.99%  synthetic ingredients, and "100% natural", which could not have any at all.

    The fact that there is not a legal definition for "natural" is now a double-edged sword.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    While there isn't a legal definition of "Natural" ... there certainly is a legal definition of "Synthetic" or "Not-Natural" ...

    This really all depends on the ingredients that the Plaintiff is objecting to.  You are allowed to include certain defined synthetics in Organic products as process aids ... perhaps the Plaintiff does not understand this.

    Or, perhaps it's like the case of Arm & Hammer who got sued for advertising their baking soda underarm deodorant that contained Triclosan as "Natural."  

    I suspect this case falls into the latter category where Unilever is throwing some synthetic ingredients into a mostly natural base and they'll have to change their labelling and advertising as did Arm & Hammer, but I doubt there are any demonstrable physical damages to the Plaintiff.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    Actually, if you follow the logic that there is a legal definition of "Synthetic", then the only other options are "Nature Identical" or "Natural".

    "Nature Identical" is very easy to define ... it's a molecule found in nature that is manufactured synthetically.

    So, if an ingredient is not "Synthetic" and not "Nature Identical", then it must be "Natural"

    If there were no legal definition of "Natural" then these Plaintiffs would not have legal standing and the Courts would never even consider these cases.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    I don't think 'nature identical' is easy to define, or at least it is not easy to achieve. Many ingredients found in nature are a specific isomer which can't be easily achieved in the lab. Chemically it could be the same molecule but because of the isomeric structure it doesn't function the same. To call something 'nature identical' you'd also have to match the isomeric distribution.

    What company that positions itself as "natural" isn't guilty of false advertising? 

    Every company is using ingredients that are produced in a lab or factory.

    I wouldn't consider adhering to the COSMOS standards as making a product natural.

    For example, look at this product by Burts Bees who claims to be 99.9% natural.
    http://www.burtsbees.com/product/fabulously-fresh-peppermint-&-rosemary-body-wash/00112-00.html#navlvl=4&start=1

    Ingredients: water, decyl glucoside, lauryl glucoside, sucrose laurate, coco-betaine, betaine, glycerin, sodium cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein, coco-glucoside, glyceryl oleate, mentha piperita (peppermint) oil, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, achillea millefolium extract, chamomilla recutita (matricaria) flower extract, cymbopogon schoenanthus extract, humulus lupulus (hops) extract, melissa officinalis leaf extract, tocopherol, hydrogenated palm glycerides citrate, lecithin, hydroxypropyltrimonium honey, fragrance, glucose, sodium chloride, citric acid, glucose oxidase, lactoperoxidase, ascorbyl palmitate, potassium iodide, potassium thiocyanate, phenoxyethanol, limonene, linalool

    Where in nature are you going to find Decyl Glucoside, Lauryl Glucoside, Cocobetaine...etc.?
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    Using that definition/criteria, then nothing is natural as every ingredient is processed in some way.

    Actually, regarding Natural Identical, since the human body selectively metabolizes either the D-isomer or L-isomer of any chemical, but rarely metabolized both isomers, it's a complete waste of time to try to replicate an exact racemic mixture found in nature.  In many cases, you simply don't have that level of control over the sterochemistry of the reaction and if you produce a racemic mixture, it isn't worth the expense to isolate one isomer from the mix for a cosmetic ingredient.

    Let's face it ... Cosmetic Chemistry is not drug development and does not require that level of precision regarding chirality and purity of molecule.

    Most people who approach this from a practical perspective fully understand that "Natural" ingredients are processed in some way according to defined criteria from renewable plant-based resources.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    I think we are mostly in agreement about this. 

    Where we may diverge slightly is on the claims side. I don't see much difference between companies that greenwash and companies that claim natural but then use things that are clearly not found in or not obtained from nature.

    I would say that the JASON coconut oil product should be able to claim 'natural' since it is just coconut oil.

    But their JASON body wash is certainly not natural.  Would you agree?
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    Yes, I agree ... Greenwashing is not acceptable.  No, the Jason Body Wash would not be considered Natural.

    And, I do agree that class action lawyers have found another boogey-man to sue ... in some cases, the companies being sued created their own problems.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
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