NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) – Kimberly-Clark is facing a federal lawsuit for claiming that Huggies Natural Care Baby Wipes are “natural,” “gentle“ and “hypoallergenic.” That’s because the product contains a synthetic chemical called phenoxyethanol, which the Food and Drug Administration says “may cause vomiting and diarrhea” in infants.
The suit, filed March 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, on behalf of San Diego resident Brittany Sebastian, is seeking damages for unlawful business practices and acts and deceptive advertising, among other things.
Sebastian purchased a package of Huggies Natural Care Wipes from a Target store in Encinitas, California, between August and November 2016. Had she known the “truth” about the wipes, she would have purchased another product, according to the filing.
Irving-based Kimberly-Clark, whose products include Kleenex tissues, Depend adult diapers and Kotex feminine care products, denies wrongdoing and intends to “vigorously defend our products and brands.”
“Nothing is more important to Huggies than the safety and well-being of those families that use our products, and we stand behind our claims that Huggies Natural Care baby wipes are safe, having passed rigorous internal and independent safety evaluations that support our confidence in the quality and safety of this product,” wrote Terry Balluck, a spokesperson for Kimberly-Clark, in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.
“This complaint does not allege a single safety event or evidence of any injury to a consumer,” he said, “and any allegation of a safety risk to our consumers is without merit.”
Attorneys for Sebastian didn’t return an email seeking comment for this story.
According to the suit, phenoxyethanol, which keeps the wipes fresh, can lead to skin irritation and is poisonous if ingested. Moreover, regulators in France have urged consumers not to use wipes containing the chemical on children under the age of three because of concerns about “reproductive and developmental toxicity.”