NEW YORK – State Attorney General Letitia James issued a letter demanding baby food company HolleUSA end what her office calls “false or misleading claims” about its products.
Last week James called for JSG Babyfood LLC and JSG Organics LLC — which does business as HolleUSA — to stop advertising its baby foods as “lead-free” and as having no detectable traces of heavy metals. The levels at which the AG’s office tested the HolleUSA pouches, however, do not exceed standards in place in the European Union, where the brand is based.
According to a statement from the AG’s office, state-commissioned laboratory tests revealed that several HolleUSA brand baby food products contained detectable levels of lead, cadmium, and arsenic. The food products are sold locally at Whole Foods, and online through Amazon.com.
“New York parents should never have to second guess the safety of the products meant for their children,” James shared in a statement. “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 November 2021, the AG’s office ordered three varieties of Holle brand baby food pouches “Carrot Cat” Fruit & Veggie Puree, “Zebra Beet” Fruit Puree & Veggie Juice” and “Veggie Bunny” Veggie Puree marketed to New York and U.S. consumers through HolleUSA’s website (Holleusa.com) and Amazon (Amazon.com). Eighteen pouches were tested for heavy metals, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury by an accredited and nationally-recognized lab. The testing detected one or more of the heavy metals in all 18 of the sampled pouches.
Based on these findings, the AG’s office ordered HolleUSA to promptly remove all false and misleading claims relating to its products being free of heavy metals from the company’s website and virtual store fronts on online retailers such as Amazon.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration presently has not established any lead, arsenic or cadmium limits for virtually any category of baby food products (including pureed baby food), though FDA’s Closer to Zero plan proposes future changes.
Within days of a February 2021 congressional report finding “dangerous levels” of toxic heavy metals in commercial baby foods, Attorney General James wrote to the Acting Director of the FDA urging swift action in setting standards for these metals in all baby foods, and requiring baby food manufacturers to test their finished products for toxic metals. After FDA announced a plan that deferred setting any final limits on lead and other heavy metals for years without requiring any stopgap or interim actions, Attorney General James led a coalition of 23 state Attorneys General in an October 2021 petition urging FDA to take several specific interim actions to accelerate protections for young children. The multistate petition is currently pending before FDA.
The AG’s office said that it is also continuing her investigation into four of the largest U.S. baby food brands — Gerber, Beech-Nut, Earth’s Best Organic (Hain), and HappyBABY (Nurture) — for inorganic arsenic levels in their infant rice cereal products and their marketing of these products in New York.
Engaging in repeated or persistent fraud or illegality, deceptive business practices, and false or misleading advertising violates New York Executive Law and General Business Law. Attorney General James’ letter notes that her office reserves the right to pursue any appropriate remedy to HolleUSA’s false or misleading advertising of its products.