On May 26, the plaintiffs in Goldemberg v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos. Inc. filed a motion for preliminary approval to settle their class claims against Johnson & Johnson related to the defendant’s Aveeno Active Naturals brand of personal care products. The lawsuit, filed in 2013 in the Southern District of New York, alleged that the Aveeno products were falsely advertised as “natural” when they in fact contain synthetic and unnatural ingredients. In October 2016, the Court certified classes of California, New York, and Florida consumers. The proposed settlement seeks to certify a class of Aveeno Active Naturals Products consumers nationwide. Johnson & Johnson has agreed to fund a $6.75 million settlement, and will remove the term “Active Naturals” from the front label of its products.
This settlement is the latest in a long line of class action settlements related to “natural” products ranging from foods to beauty care products to household cleansers. In October 2016, for example, Unilever reached a $3.26 million settlement related to its TRESemme Naturals hair products, and in November 2016 Blue Diamond Growers settled a lawsuit related to its Almond Breeze and Nut Thins “natural” and “all natural” products for almost $9 million. In January 2017, Method Products reached a $2.8 million settlement regarding its “natural” and/or “naturally derived” cleaning products.
These lawsuits, which follow a familiar pattern, seek to capitalize on the lack of government regulation regarding use of the term “natural” on consumer products. Although the FDA is currently in the rulemaking process with respect to use of the term “natural” on food labeling, there is little indication as to when a final regulation will issue. In the meantime, the debate over what constitutes a “natural” product will continue to rage in the courts.
The case is Goldemberg v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos. Inc., No. 7:13-cv-03073 (S.D.N.Y.).