Danone and White Wave Foods Company have been named in class action alleging false and deceptive advertising of their Horizon Organic Milk plus DHA Omega-3 products.
Certified organic milk, such as Horizon Organic milk, is processed according to federal rules addressing factors such as animal raising and feeding practices, and use of nutritional additives such as DHA. For example, rules require milk marketed as organic to come from cows whose food was grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or genetically modified seeds. Herds cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics for their milk to be advertised as organic.
As alleged, the DHA Omega-3 added to Horizon Organic milk is derived from algae. The DHA Omega-3 used in Defendants’ milk is not organic. It is synthetically manufactured using Schizochytrium, a type of algae that is fed a continuous diet of corn syrup in order to boost reproduction. The corn syrup fed to the algae is derived from GMO corn. The DHA manufacturing process includes treating the microalgae with an enzyme that hydrolyzes the cell wall causing it to rupture and release DHA algal oil from the cell. The oil is released in an aqueous broth to form a water/oil emulsion. Isoropyl alcohol is added to break the oil and water emulsion. The DHA manufacturing process also requires the use of non-organic processing aids, some of which remain in the finished DHA product.
As alleged, an exclusive list of nutritional additives may be added to organic food products and the products still labeled “organic.” As early as 2008, the FDA and other agencies made clear that the only essential vitamins and minerals that could be added to food products labeled certified organic are: Protein, Vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, B12, Copper, Potassium, Calcium, Iron, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Biotin, Pantothenic acid, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, and Iodine. DHA Omega-3 is not on this list. Food manufacturers’ requests that DHA be added to the list of permitted synthetic ingredients in organic food have not been approved.
If a food product includes DHA Omega-3 as an ingredient or additive the product is not organic and it is false and misleading to label and advertise the product as organic.