State alleges Whole Foods failed to warn of carcinogen in soaps

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Times Staff Writer

California’s attorney general has filed suit against four manufacturers, including Whole Foods Market Inc., accusing them of failing to label soap products that contain a potentially cancer-causing chemical.

The suit, filed by Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown in Alameda County Superior Court late last month, didn’t name the specific body washes, gels and liquid dish soaps that allegedly contain 1,4-dioxane. Under Proposition 65, companies must label products that contain chemicals known to the state to cause cancer.

The four companies are Whole Foods, Avalon Natural Products, Beaumont Products Inc. and NutriBiotic.


“We’ve been talking with all four of them and we’re hoping that the end result of this is an effort to reformulate to get the dioxane out of the product,” Deputy Atty. Gen. Susan Fiering said Tuesday. “We think that would be the best possible result for everyone.”

Eighteen other companies were also warned that some of their products contained the chemical, Fiering said. She added that consumers shouldn’t become too alarmed.

“Using a shampoo or a bottle of body wash by itself doesn’t pose a risk,” she said. “It’s only when these products are used over a lifetime.”

Libba Letton, a spokeswoman for Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods, said the company believed its products were safe.

“We have conducted our own investigation into the allegations that some of our products contain 1,4-dioxane and do not believe these products represent a health risk or are in excess of California’s Proposition 65 safe harbor level for 1,4-dioxane,” Letton said. “We’re cooperating with the attorney general’s office to resolve the claims as quickly as possible.”

The other companies couldn’t be reached for comment.

Each violation carries civil penalties of as much as $2,500 a day.