A proposed class action lawsuit alleges Crew International, LLC, known otherwise as Cali White, has misleadingly left out material safety and efficacy information in the marketing and advertising for its line of dental care products containing activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal has experienced a surge in popularity of late thanks to marketers, social media personalities and celebrities touting its apparent “detoxifying” qualities, the 70-page lawsuit begins. According to the case, though activated charcoal can be useful incertain applications, its use in oral care products—referred to in the complaint as “charcoal dentifrices”—poses a risk of harm to long-term tooth and gum health. This apparent risk allegedly goes undisclosed to consumers who buy Cali White’s charcoal dentifrices, which the company, the lawsuit says, promotes as able to whiten teeth and safe for enamel and gums.
Relaying that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires marketers to ensure advertising claims are truthful and supported by a reasonable basis, the suit alleges Cali White “does not appear” to possess “the requisite evidence to substantiate its claims concerning the benefits and safety” of its activated charcoal-containing toothpastes and toothpowders. As the lawsuit tells it, such evidence does not exist, and more than one medical publication has argued that charcoal-based oral care products may do more harm than good. From the complaint:
“The consensus of respected dentists, researchers and industry experts is that there is a dearth of scientific substantiation on the safety and efficacy of activated charcoal in dentifrice, and risk of harm. For example, in 2017, findings published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) concluded that there is insufficient laboratory or clinical data to substantiate the safety and efficacy of dentifrice containing activated charcoal, and cautioned against its use. In 2019 the British Dental Journal (BDJ), again confirmed a lack of substantiation, and expressed concern that charcoal toothpastes are a ‘marketing gimmick’ that could, in fact, cause harm to oral health and structures, aesthetic appearance. Many qualified dental professionals have also spoken out on these findings and other safety and health concerns, and have cautioned against the use of charcoal dentifrices.”
The case further claims the American Dental Association (ADA) has not approvedanycharcoal dentifrices to be stamped with its Seal of Acceptance, a mark that indicates the organization’s certification of a product’s safety and efficacy based on clinical data and research.
Cali White “knew or should have known” that its claims with regard to the safety and efficacy of its activated charcoal dental care products “lacked a credible basis or substantiation” and were “misleading, deceptive, and/or outright false,” the lawsuit says. The plaintiff claims Cali White was aware that the representations of its charcoal dentifrices were “likely to deceive a reasonable consumer” yet proceeded to market and advertise the products in a manner that, according to the suit, included apparent third-party endorsements, claims of professional recommendation and false imagery. More from the lawsuit:
“For example, Cali White has misled consumers to believe its claims are highly substantiated and endorsed by third parties, with its claims that the Charcoal Dentifrices are ‘dentist recommended,’ that their safety and efficacy has been ‘clinically proven,’ and even that the FDA has determined them safe for lifetime use (which is false). Cali White also claims superior safety and quality to other comparable products, and employs misleading official-looking stamps, including a false ‘Made in California’ logo.”
Further still, the lawsuit alleges that although Cali White has for years advertised its activated charcoal-containing products at a discount from a higher full-retail price, this was “instead another deceptive practice” meant to induce consumers to “attribute high value to its products.” Reasonable consumers, the case argues, did not and could not have known Cali White omitted material information while misrepresenting the purported benefits of activated charcoal. Ultimately, the suit charges, proposed class members have paid for products that “do not perform as promised,” are not as safe as represented, do not bear the properties touted by the defendant and may be harmful or dangerous to long-term oral health.
“Cali White prioritizes its own profits and jeopardizes consumer safety when it makes unsubstantiated claims on the safety of the Charcoal Dentifrices, and does so without disclosing material facts, including the potential hazards of using charcoal in dentifrice,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit looks to cover a putative class of consumers nationwide who purchased Cali White’s dental products containing activated charcoal, including the company’s “Activated Charcoal and Coconut Oil Teeth Whitening Toothpaste” and “Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening Powder,” during the relevant statute of limitations period.