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Gaia fined by ACCC for misleading ‘organic’ claims

The company behind popular baby shampoos and body washes, Gaia Skin Naturals, has been fined for making misleading claims that its products are organic.

Gaia described its Natural Baby bath and body wash, baby shampoo and baby moisturiser as pure, natural and organic, but the products contain two synthetic chemical preservatives.

The company paid a $37,800 fine after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued the company three infringement notices over the alleged false or misleading claim.

While companies do not legally need organic certification to label their products ‘organic’, ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said businesses must make sure they are not misleading or deceiving customers with that description.

“Businesses making organic claims must be able to substantiate those claims,” she said.

The commissioner said the ACCC was concerned about what a consumer would understand when they looked at the label of a product.

“Organic is a premium claim, designed to tell consumers ‘this is organic’, and often attracts a premium price,” Ms Court said.

“We were concerned that the use of the word organic says to a consumer, at a minimum, this is an organic product and this doesn’t contain any chemicals.

“In these products, there were a couple of synthetic chemicals, and that is sufficient to say this representation is misleading.”

The company’s Natural Baby products are stocked throughout Australian supermarkets and chemists, including Coles supermarkets, Chemist Warehouse, Priceline, Terry White Chemists, and are also sold at Toys R Us.

The products contain the preservatives sodium hydroxymethyl glycinate and phenoxyethanol, which are considered safe and commonly used in cosmetics and skin care products.

Ms Court said the infringement notices issued to Gaia over the baby products did not mean the products were not safe to use.

“This is not about saying this product dangerous at all,” she said.

“Companies that want to use descriptors like organic or free-range need to make sure their products generally conform to what consumers understand that to mean.

“We think to consumers that means it doesn’t contain synthetic chemicals.”

Fairfax has contacted Gaia for a comment.

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