Pharmavite files lawsuit against Clean Label Project

September 11, 2020

Pharmavite LLC announced that it has filed a complaint against the Clean Label Project in California Federal Court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), Lanham Act and California’s Unfair Practices Act.

Pharmavite LLC (West Hills, CA), which manufactures nutrition products under its Nature Made, EQUELLE, nurish by Nature Made, MegaFood, and Innate Response brands, announced that it has filed a complaint against the Clean Label Project (CLP) in California Federal Court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), Lanham Act and California’s Unfair Practices Act. The complaint alleges that CLP and its co-defendants Pure Market LLC and Ellipse Analytics, have collaborated in publishing product “grades” that unfairly characterize Pharmavite’s products.

On its website, CLP provides lists of the Best and Worst products in a number of categories such as protein powders, hemp-based products, and prenatal vitamins, to name a few. Classifications are based on the products’ “purity,” “efficacy,” “nutrition,” and/or “accuracy.” Grades are provided by Pure Market LLC, while CLP offer awards and certifications. The main criticism leveled at the organization by the industry is its lack of transparency on testing methodology, a lack of clarity on the criteria used to assign grades, as well as the source of its funding.

For example, in a report from NutraIngredients-USA, the veracity of CLP’s findings were questioned after CLP rang alarm bells about arsenic contamination in baby food, only to contradict its claims to the fact-checking website Snopes, when it was revealed that a vast majority of products did not contain arsenic or were well below the standard limits. With regard to funding, in another report from NutraIngredients-USA,Jacklyn Bowen, CLP’s executive director told the publication that the organization receives some funding from sales of products on Amazon, but stated that the majority of its funding came from donations from consumers, averaging $25 in the first half of 2020. Pharmavite’s complaint, on the other hand, alleges that CLP pressures companies into paying sizeable fees to acquire its certifications, otherwise threatening legal action or publishing poor product grades that would impugn their integrity.

Pharmavite, for its part, alleges that CLP threatened the firm with legal action based on the purported test results of two of its products, unless Pharmavite paid CLP a $1.9 million settlement, which they refused. “Quality is the cornerstone of every product we make at Pharmavite. This complaint, asserting claims under RICO and California’s Unfair Practices Act, is Pharmavite’s first step in stopping Defendants’ wrongful conduct,” said Christine Burdick-Bell, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Pharmavite, in a press release.

“When we were first contacted by CLP our initial goal was to reach out to them and Ellipse Analytics for a professional and frank discussion on testing results and methodologies,” explained Tobe Cohen, chief growth officer at Pharmavite, in a press release. “Those efforts were met with a refusal to share relevant details. If CLP was truly interested in protecting consumers, I would expect it to be eager to be transparent with its testing methodology and other details.”

When Nutritional Outlook reached out to CLP for comment, the organization stated via email, "Clean Label Project's mission is to bring truth and transparency to consumer product labeling. That hasn't changed. There will be more information coming out about Pharmavite products."

Updated on Monday, September 15, 2020 at 9:01 AM