Ongoing Legal Battles Over ‘Natural’ Definition

2017-08-30 15:34:50

More than a year after the Food and Drug Administration signaled that it would soon nail down exactly what the word “natural” means, the agency has yet to provide any guidance — and baffled consumers are suing.

They’ve sued Sargento, the dairy giant, because the cows behind its “natural” cheeses are given genetically modified feed.

They’ve sued Walmart over its “all-natural” pita chips, which contain thiamine mononitrate and folic acid — both B vitamins that are made synthetically.

They’ve even sued HINT, which makes “all-natural” fruit-flavored waters, for using a common solvent to boost the drink’s taste.

Since January,  court filings show that there’s been an uptick in lawsuits against food companies regarding “all-natural” and “natural” claims — and some lawyers say the FDA’s continued silence is to blame.

Nineteen all-natural class actions have been filed this year, as of July 2017. There were 27 such suits for the entire year of 2016.

The suits were brought by individual consumers, or small groups of consumers, on behalf of everyone who purchased a given product. The lawsuits frequently claim that “natural” labels tricked shoppers into buying a more expensive cheese — or flavored water, or pita chip — by deceiving them about how the product was made. A handful of law firms filed the majority of complaints.

“It’s really striking that we’re seeing this return to the types of claims we were seeing two years ago,” said Charles Sipos, a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie who defends food manufacturers. “Plaintiffs are arguing that the FDA hasn’t acted yet, and that’s tantamount to an admission they’re not going to act.”

Judges, consumer groups and even manufacturers have long called on government to intervene in the fraught debate over what the word “natural” means on a food label — much like the words “wholesome” and “pure,” which have also been the subject of lawsuits.

For manufacturers, such guidance would clarify the rules of the game, helping them avoid future legal action. For consumer groups, the concern is that shoppers don’t understand what they’re buying when they shell out more money for “natural” products.

According to a 2016 survey by Consumer Reports, 73 percent of consumers seek out products with the “natural” label. But many erroneously believe it indicates a food does not contain synthetic, highly processed or genetically modified ingredients, when in fact there are no clear rules for what “natural” is and isn’t.

 

Ongoing Legal Battles Over ‘Natural’ Definition

Related Posts

Skittles Internet Debate: Do All Colors Taste the Same?

Dunkin’ Brands Still Committed to Removing Synthetic Colors by 2018

Food Ingredients First Interviews Sensient at FIE Show

Hy-Vee Cutting Artificial Ingredients in 1,000 Store Brand Products

Nestlé, Hershey’s and Mars’ Shift to Clean Snacking Fuels Candy Market Rebound

GMI Bringing Back Artificially Colored Trix Cereal

Herza Schokolade Launches On-Trend Purple Chocolate Range

Wine Gets the Blues

Food Navigator Interviews Sensient Food Colors

The Power of Color in Dairy Product Development

What Ingredients are Food Manufacturers Phasing Out

The Latest Color Trend: Bright Red Pickles

Tasting the Rainbow in New Product Development

Natural Colors’ Continuous Growth Despite FDA Approval of Synthetics

Is Glow-in-the-Dark the Next Food Trend? Meet the GLO-NUT

The Important Role of Color in the Push to All-Natural Confections

Kraft Heinz Cooking Up Cleaner Cheesy Snack Labels

The Benefit to Closer Cooperation Between Global Color Regulators

New Simply Popsicles® Showcase the Bright Colors of Nature

Mothers Know Best: How Moms are Influencing the Food and Beverage Industry

FDA Withdraws Draft Guidance on Fruit and Vegetable Juices as Color Additives

How Big Food is Taking on a World of Picky Eaters

Kraft Heinz Doubles Oscar Mayer’s Marketing Budget to Promote Natural Ingredients

The Magically Colorful Unicorn Trend

A Colorful Twist on a Sweet & Salty Snack

Food Color Footage Aboard Space Shuttle

Natural Color Portfolio Expands for Snacks

Food Color Effect on Older Consumers

Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins Removing Artificial Colors by End of 2018

New Trend: Color Where You Least Expect It

Food Color is as Important as Taste

It’s Not Valentine’s Day Without Red Velvets

Negative Attention on Artificial Dyes Drives Demand for Natural

France Permits the Use of Coloring Foods in Beer

Out of the Way, Rainbow Bagels — Unicorn Latte Health Elixirs Are Here

Myth or Fact? Artificially-Colored Foods Are Bad for You

Further Concerns Over the Safety of Titanium Dioxide

Health Canada Proposes Changes for Amaranth’s Permitted Usage Level

Panera is 100% Additive-Free

A Paradox: Natural Foods with Artificial Coloring

Formulators Taking Solution-Approach to Natural

Visual Appeal for the “Natural” Baker

Consumers Emphasizing Ingredients on Food Labels

A Very Red Christmas

Will 2017 be the Year of Purple Foods?

Color Empowers Consumer Social Sharing

#TBT A Look Back at the Co-Creation of the Food Coloring Business

8 Foods You Would Never Guess Were Artificially Colored

Feeling Cold? Warm-Up with this New Bright Blue Tea from Japan

Food Fun: Colorful 3-D Gingerbread Creations

Colorful #MirrorCake Images Taking Over Instagram

Color of Food Guides our Brains

Naturally Coloring the Beverage Industry

Are Autumn Leaves the Next Source of Natural Color?

Food Colors Market to Reach $3.75 Billion by 2022

Spirulina Algae: Next Natural Food Trend

A Fiesta of Natural Colors in Tequila

Why Foods That Are Blue Are Perceived As Less Natural

Quest for a True Blue M&M

Big Brands Clean Up Portfolios for Consumers

Natural Colors Linked to Positive Health Effects

Papa John’s Completes Removal of 14 Ingredients

Many Food Companies are Cooking Up New Natural Recipes

Scary Delicious: Krispy Kreme’s Colorful Halloween Doughnuts

GMI Still Struggling with Natural Color in Lucky Charms Marshmallows

McDonald’s Japan Celebrates: Just Because It’s Fall

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Continues Research on the Safety of Titanium Dioxide

Ingredients in Sports Drinks: Natural Colors

Starbucks Removes Caramel Coloring from Infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte

Peace, Love and Cake

A Deep Look into Spirulina: an Emerging and Popular Natural Color Source

Cakes Are Getting Colorful

Rainbow Lattes are the Latest Thing in Coffee Art

Tastefully Terrifying Halloween Red Velvet Croissants

GMI #RealTrixRabbit Campaign Promotes Removal of Artificial Colors

UK Testing Unexpected Ice Cream Colors

Does Mac&Cheese Lead the ‘Free-From’ Trend?

Why Wegmans Removed Artificial Colors in their Icings

Canada Campbell’s Listens to Changing Consumer Needs

GMI Still Seeking Natural Blue and Green Colors for Trix Cereal

UK Nestlé Cereals Reassure Consumers Wanting the Removal of Artificial Colours

Food Companies Are Not Phasing Out Artificial Colors Fast Enough for Some

Heinz Removing Artificial Colors from Pickles

Artificial Dyes Still Present in Many Kid-Friendly Products

Kraft Launching Jell-O Line Without Artificial Colors

McDonald’s Removing Artificial Colors from Iconic Chicken Nuggets

Sensient Colors: Heat Stable Natural Red

Natural Colors ‘Upsurge’ in 2016 Market Share

PepsiCo Launches “Stubborn Soda” Line with Natural Colors

Consumers Are Influenced by the Color of their Food

Color Me Natural: 2016 Confectionery Color Trends

Food Color Pops Up Where You Least Expect It

General Mills Working to Remove Artificial Colors from Lucky Charms’ Marshmallows