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Organic Consumers Association

California Files Lawsuit Against Whole Foods, Avalon, and Others Whose Products Tested Positive for Carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane in OCA Study

  • Organic Consumers Association, 6/10/2008

For immediate release: Interviews with David Steinman or Ronnie Cummins can be arranged by contacting Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671.

OAKLAND, CA - Reacting in part to a study released by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) in March of this year, but also based on their own testing, the Attorney General of California has filed a major lawsuit against body care household-cleaning product companies whose products recently tested highest for the carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane.   

Under California's "Proposition 65" consumer products that contain toxic levels of 1,4 Dioxane must have warning labels stating they may cause cancer.  1,4-Dioxane is typically produced as a byproduct when ingredients are ethoxylated with the petrochemical ethylene oxide, a process which has become standard practice for many cleansing and moisturizing products.  

The suit, California v. Avalon Natural Products (manufacturer of the Alba brand), also names Whole Foods Market California (manufacturer of the Whole Foods 365 brand), Beaumont Products (manufacturer of the Citrus Magic brand), and Nutribiotic (read full Attorney General suit here). It is unclear exactly which products manufactured by the aforementioned companies triggered the lawsuit, but all named companies have sold products that tested close to or in excess of 20 parts per million for 1,4-Dioxane in the OCA study released at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, CA in March (read study results here).

Last week OCA sent a letter to the four companies named in the California lawsuit to see if they are planning changes to their labeling or product formulations.  Only one company responded.  In a letter to the OCA, Beaumont Products wrote, "Upon being notified that there was a problem with our product, we verified that the problem existed, then took immediate action." Beaumont has reformulated their products to remove the problematic ingredient, highlighting their dedication to providing safe products, in contrast to the lack of action taken by the other three companies.

The California Attorney General (AG) alleges these companies should have put warning labels on products containing high levels of 1,4-Dioxane, stating that they may cause cancer. The lawsuit states, "Plaintiff alleges that  each defendant has known since at least May 29, 2004 that the body washes and gels and liquid dish soaps contain, 1,4-dioxane and that persons using these products are exposed to 1,4-dioxane."  Per Proposition 65, fines for mislabeled products are as high as $2,500 per day for each violation.  FAQs about 1,4-Dioxane can be found here.

"These companies need to stop treating the inclusion of cancer causing chemicals in their products as 'business as usual' and reformulate before consumer confidence in the natural products and organics industry is permanently damaged," says consumer activist David Steinman who conducted the OCA study and originally exposed the presence of 1,4-Dioxane in baby bubble bath products in his book Safe Trip to Eden and in a February, 2007 press conference with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. (The press release can be found here .)

The AG's complaint  states that California wants, "…preliminary injunctions, permanent injunctions, or other orders prohibiting the defendant(s) from exposing persons within the State of California to 1,4-dioxane without providing clear and reasonable warnings…"

"The OCA's 1,4-dioxane study elevated the issue of fake 'natural' and 'organic' brands that utilize petrochemicals in their formulas in March, and now we are seeing labeling enforcement on a scale never seen before," says OCA National Director Ronnie Cummins. "We used an independent laboratory and found that numerous 'natural' and 'organic' brands tested positive for 1,4-Dioxane, a cancer causing contaminant resulting from the petrochemical ethylene oxide being attached to one or more ingredients."

Interviews with David Steinman or Ronnie Cummins can be arranged by contacting Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671.

Learn more background on this story at OCA's Coming Clean Campaign here

PDF printable version of the above press release can be found here

Word DOC version of the above press release can be found here

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords:

post Jun 11 2008, 02:48 PM

Nothing of this nature surprises me any more about Whole Foods and their depraved marketing, based on my own personal experience and that of others. The FTC was right to object to the merger; it remains to be seen whether Justice Department or others is quick or slow to recognize their patterns of anti-trust violations and discrimination against even their own employees. One Tesuque Pueblo Indian lady just quit in Santa Fe at Wild Oats because she felt the Whole Foods policies were "Gestapo-like"!

Keep Digging into all of this Ronnie and your staff! You are doing a truly great public service by doing so!

I would certainly like to hear from your readers directly concerning their experiences and conclusions specifically re: Whole Foods taking over Wild Oats.

Stephen Fox, Managing Editor, Santa Fe Sun News

Monica Nelson
post Jun 12 2008, 03:07 AM

I'm looking at a container of Nature's Gate Body Lotion and it clearly says 'ORGANICS.'

Your list states Nature's Gate does not make a natural or organic claim.

post Today, 03:27 AM

Be sure to look on the front page of the Seoul Times in South Korea today(there it is June 16 already), as this very same press release is posted there by Editor Joseph Joh. This will educate a lot of Koreans and English speakers in Korea, by the largest circulating English newspaper in Korea!

Stephen Fox, Managing Editor, Santa Fe Sun News