The class action complaint, filed at the United States District Court in the Eastern District of New York on May 15 on behalf of a parents in New York and California, alleges “false and misleading representation” on packs of Similac Advance Organic infant formula.
It claims Similac Advance Organic - packs of which feature the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic seal - contains "a spectacular array and substantial amount of ingredients prohibited in organic foods."
The USDA National Organic Program's (NOP) National List specifies which non-organic substances are allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labelled as 'organic'.
According to the complaint, 26 ingredients found in Similac Advance Organic infant formula, including sodium selenate, taurine, and cyanocobalamin, do not feature on the NOP National List.
"In fact, of the 49 ingredients in the infant formula, more than half (26 ingredient) are not allowed in organic foods," it reads. "Many of those 26 ingredients are irradiated substances, synthetic compounds, or produced from hazardous substances."
“Additionally, at least one ingredient in these infant formulas is produced using genetically engineered materials – a practice forbidden in organic foods.”
The plaintiffs, who are seeking damages in excess of $5m, claim Abbott "deceptively and misleadingly" the product 'organic' to charge a "premium price."
"As a result of its false and misleading labelling, Abbott was able to sell its 'organic' infant formula to hundreds of thousands of consumers throughout the United States and to realize sizeable profits," the complaint continues.
Ingredients "are approved for use"
Illinois-based Abbott insists, however, that all 26 ingredients named in the lawsuit are approved for use in organic infant formula.
"Abbott's Similac Organic infant formula is certified as organic in accordance with the US Department of Agriculture's current National Organic Program standards," it said in a statement sent to DairyReporter.com. "We comply with with all requirements to maintain this certification."
"All of the ingredients named in this lawsuit are approved for use today in organic infant formulas," it added.
The complaint was filed just days before Abbott announced the launch of a non-GMO version of its popular Similac Advance infant formula in the US.
Similac Advance Non-GMO infant formula – the first and only non-GMO labelled infant formula from a leading US manufacturer – is available in selected Target stores across the US.
Distribution will be extended in the fall, and non-GMO Similac Sensitive, a reduced-lactose infant formula, will hit shelves in August.