Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James ordered baby food company HolleUSA to stop making false claims in its advertising that its products are "lead free" and have no detectable traces of heavy metals.
In announcing the action, James said, "New York parents should never have to second guess the safety of the products meant for their children. My office found that HolleUSA is misleading or lying to parents when it advertises its baby food as free from lead and having no detectable heavy metals. These false or misleading claims prey upon parents’ concerns about the continuing problem of toxic heavy metals in their children’s food, and they must end. We will continue to hold accountable any company that misrepresents its products to New York consumers.”
In a February 16th letter to HolleUSA, the NYAG alleged that the company is engaging in false and misleading advertising by promoting its baby foods as having "No detectable traces of heavy metals" and as being "Lead Free." The NYAG said that, after testing several of the company's products, the NYAG determined that they do, in fact, contain detectable levels of lead, cadmium, and arsenic.
The NYAG ordered HolleUSA to remove all false and misleading claims relating its products being free of heavy metals from its website, as well as from sales materials and virtual store fronts on online retailers, such as Amazon.com. The NYAG said that the company must remove explicit statements making these claims, as well as any "labels or graphics suggesting that a product is free of heavy metals, such as a "Pb" with a line through it."
The FTC's Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims -- which are up for review this year -- also say that marketers should not misrepresent that a product is "free of" a substance. The Guides acknowledge, however, that a "free of" claim is appropriate for products that have trace amounts of a substance if (1) the level of the specified substance is not more than that which would be found as an acknowledged trace contaminant or background level, (2) the substance's presence does not cause material harm that consumers typically associated with the substance, and (3) the substance has not been added intentionally to the product.
"We will continue to hold accountable any company that misrepresents its products to New York Consumers" -- New York Attorney General Letitia James