On June 21, 2021, skincare giant Neutrogena was served class claims in federal court in the Central District of California alleging that the company’s sunscreen products contain dangerously high levels of benzene, a carcinogenic impurity that has been linked to leukemia and other cancers.
In the complaint, named plaintiff Shelli French describes how online, FDA-regulated pharmacy Valisure recently conducted an investigation on the carcinogenic potential of active ingredients in sun care products. High levels of benzene were detected in Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray SPF 100+ and SPF 70+, Neutrogena Beach Defense Oil-Free Body Sunscreen Spray SPF 100, Neutrogena Invisible Daily Defense Body Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60+ and Neutrogena Beach Defense Spray Body Sunscreen SPF 50 (collectively, “the Products”).
According to the complaint, all of the products contained concentrations of benzene in excess of the FDA limit of two parts per million (ppm). The plaintiff argues that despite the Neutrogena products containing the highest levels of benzene of any sunscreen Valisure tested, nowhere on the packaging of the Products does it state benzene as an ingredient. Valisure has announced that it believes that benzene entered the Products as a result of contamination during the manufacturing process, rather than as a design defect.
On May 25, 2021, Valisure filed a citizen petition with the FDA to recall all batches of the products that contain benzene on the basis that they are adulterated under section 501 of the Federal Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) and misbranded under section 502 of the FDCA. However, despite the knowledge of the presence of a known human carcinogen in its products, Neutrogena has failed to issue a recall. Instead, it issued a 25% off sale on all suncare sale advertised on its website on June 23, 2021.
The plaintiff is seeking to represent a class made up of all persons in the U.S. who purchased the Products. Additionally, the plaintiff seeks to represent a Florida subclass. The suit brings causes of action for breach of express warranty, breach of an implied warranty, violation of FDUPTA Fla. Sta. sections 501.201-213, fraudulent concealment, and unjust enrichment.
The case is: French v. Neutrogena, Case No.: 2:21-cv-05048, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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