These days, people are concerned about exposure to artificial, chemical, or toxic substances. Companies often charge more for natural products, but many consumers think they’re worth it if they’re safer.
Mosquito and bug repellant are substances that we slather all over our skin, sometimes over large areas of our bodies, so they’re of special concern. And it may not be hard to take advantage of that concern.
United Industries Corporation (UIC) is a leading maker of mosquito and bug repellants under its Cutter and Repel brands. It markets and labels some of these products as “natural,” yet they seem to be laced with all kinds of artificial and synthetic chemicals.
How can that be? If you look closely, you’ll see that next to the prominent word “natural,” the company has placed a tiny asterisk. Then, elsewhere on the label, it explains this asterisk with one of two phrases: “contains a natural active ingredient” or “contains lemongrass, a natural insecticide". In other words, it indicates that the word “natural” applies to only one ingredient in the product.
Other ingredients are certainly not natural. The various products contain one or more of the following: sodium lauryl sulfate, glycerin, vanillin, xanthan gum, citric acid, potassium sorbate, isopropyl alcohol, carbon dioxide, sodium benzoate, polyglyceryl oleate.
In addition to these clearly synthetic ingredients, the products contain one or more “oils” that can be produced naturally but are generally artificial or synthetic, or are produced in such a way that the end product is synthetic. These include geraniol, soybean oil, lemongrass oil, mineral oil, and wintergreen oil.
That’s apparently what that tiny asterisk stands for.
Does the average consumer even see the asterisk? Probably not. And even if they do see it, and find the corresponding note, the words are confusing. In short, the company seems to be using a labeling trick to get consumers to buy its products.
We’re currently investigating this practice, to see if a class action is needed. These are the products in question:
If you’ve used any of the above products, we’re interested in hearing what your experience was. Fill out the form on this page and let us know.