What Food Manufacturers Should Know about “Natural” Claims

May 07, 2012   

Consumer litigation surrounding “natural” food claims has increased over the last year. ConAgras Wesson Oils, Skinnygirl Margarita, and a host of other brands have had suits filed against them for using “all natural” on their labeling and in advertising. Similarly, Kelloggs popular brand, Kashi, has faced back-lash on social media sites for the use of “natural” claims on advertising and labeling. Kashi uses soy from soybeans that have had a gene inserted to protect the soybeans from the herbicide Roundup.

Neither the FDA nor any other agency has formally defined “natural.” FDA is relying on a 1993 policy that states, “[FDA] has not objected to the use of the term [natural] on food labels provided it is used in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and the product does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.” The plaintiffs attorneys in these cases argue that the “all natural” claim at issue is false and misleading because the product contains unnaturally processed, synthetic substances, or, in the case of Kashi, that the cereal contains genetically modified ingredients. While these products are technically in compliance with FDAs policy statement, they are not insulated against private actions because there is a lack of formal FDA or other government definition for “natural” claims. Without an FDA or other government definition, the plaintiffs attorneys can bring these suits and the food manufacturers must prove the claims are not false or misleading. Most food companies cannot afford a long drawn out lawsuit in court and end up settling. A formal FDA definition of “natural” could set a definitive standard for “natural” and eliminate these lawsuits.

A formal FDA definition of natural would not only benefit food companies, but it would also provide consumers with a clearer understanding and less confusion. For more information about the regulation of food advertising and labeling claims, please contact us at contact@fidjlaw.com or (305) 350-5690.