Government settles first case against false organic claims

Following a public comment period, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in mid-December approved a final consent order settling its first-ever case against a company making false organic product claims.

In September, FTC announced a proposed consent order against Moonlight Slumber LLC, an Illinois-based firm, for misrepresenting its baby mattresses by advertising them on its website and packaging as organic and free of volatile organic compounds, among other misleading claims. FTC alleged that the company represented its Starlight Simplicity and Little Star mattresses were organic when, in fact, the substantial majority of the content was non-organic. The complaint also alleged that the company represented that its Little Star mattress contained a “Natural Latex Core,” yet the latex used was synthetic.

The FTC order settling the charges prohibits Moonlight Slumber from making the misleading representations alleged in the complaint and requires the company to have competent and reliable evidence to support any claims it makes. The order also prohibits the company from representing that covered products are emissions-free or VOC-free unless it has evidence to back up such claims.

It further bars the company from misrepresenting the results of any tests or studies, and from disseminating misleading certifications, or from filing to disclose that the company has a material connection to an endorser.

During the comment period, the Organic Trade Association commended FTC for taking action against the deceptive use of the word “organic.”  FTC has authority to act on misleading or fraudulent organic claims on products that fall outside the National Organic Program’s (NOP’s) purview although it previously had not exercised that authority.

The Organic Trade Association has been meeting regularly with FTC and the NOP since 2012 to urge FTC to exercise its consumer protection authority regarding organic claims, including clamping down on mislabeled organic claims on mattresses. Our message has been loud and clear: Not enforcing organic claims in ALL products risks diluting the integrity of and trust in the organic seal. //