Friday, August 3, 2012

Popular Companies Under Fire for 'All-Natural' False Advertising

Within recent times, the increased demand for organic and whole foods has led to a proliferation of products being labelled  'All-Natural or 100% Natural'.  Manufacturers are aware that consumers are on the look-out for and are willing to pay more for products that are less processed and contain 'natural' ingredients.  However, consumers need to be more conscious about the basic guidelines governing food product labelling. I say this because consumers need to understand that not all of the phrases/slogans placed on the food label are factual, many are informative while others can be misleading. For instance, the use of the phrase 'All-Natural or 100% Natural' does not mean that the product is free of genetically modified material (GMO).  Many manufacturers use the US FDA's (United States of America Food and Drug Administration) definition of natural, which provides a slight leeway/loophole. The US FDA defines 'Natural' as when " nothing artificial or synthetic (including all colour additives regardless of source)  has been added to a food that would not normally be expected in the food. (58 Fed. Reg., 2302, 2407 (Jan. 6, 1993))  Side-note, the use of GMO in foods does not qualify as misleading or false advertising.

Regardless, the following highlights a number of companies and brands that came under fire for the use of the phrase  'All-Natural or 100% Natural' on their food labels:

1) Nature Valley (General Mills)-July 2012

The lawsuit filed is seeking the removal of the natural claim on a number of Nature Valley products, seeing it contains a number of ingredients that are indeed heavily processed. 
All information sourced from
 The ingredients in question are high maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin, which are not found in nature but made via chemical processing. Thus making the '100 % natural' claim invalid and misleading. Read More  (1)
2) Natural Selections (Maple Leaf Foods)- February 2012
Iinformation sourced from
An investigation performed by CBC News Marketplace deemed the 'All Natural and No Added Preservatives' claims on the deli meats made by Maple Leaf Foods are misleading and 'lousy'.  
Their website describes the deli meats as being free of preservatives and artificial ingredients but some ingredients used do contain 'naturally occurring nitrites'. By the company using an ingredient containing naturally occurring preservatives and nitrites, overrides the fact that no preservatives are added.  As a result, the indirect addition of the nitrites borders on misleading. I believe 'No Artificial Preservatives Added' would be a better claim than the 'No Added Preservative' claim.
Side-note, the quality of the food product is not in question just the integrity/validity of the food label claims. Maple Leaf Foods admitted to standing by the integrity of their labelling claims, despite using natural preservatives and items containing natural nitrites. Read more on CBC Canada (1) and (2).

3) Tropicana (Tropicana Products Inc.)-January/May 2012
Information sourced from
The lawsuit filed targets the '100% Pure and Natural' claim on their premium orange juice. The reasoning behind the lawsuit questions the validity of the claim, since to mass produce packaged orange juice, the raw materials (oranges) generally undergo some level of processing for the sake of quality, durability and food safety. Therefore, making the '100% Pure and Natural' to be somewhat misleading. However, in reference to the US FDA's definition of natural the product's claim is justified, nevertheless the final ruling on the lawsuit is pending. Read More (1), (2) and (3)
Take a look at the process involved in making commercial orange juice. The process involved may vary from company to company but the Discovery Channel's video on How Orange Juice is Made is still enlightening.
4) Frito-Lay (PepsiCo)-December 2011
PepsiCo’s snack business Frito-Lay has been accused of misleading consumers by making all-natural claims on its products that also contain genetically modified corn and vegetable oils. The products targeted are Tostitos & SunChips. Read More (1)

5) Kashi (The Kellogg Company)-August 2011
The Kellogg Company and its subsidiary Kashi have been accused of inappropriately marketing products as natural, according to a class action lawsuit filed in a Southern Californian District Court. The products under question are the GoLean shakes. The issue here relates to the use of 'ingredients that are synthetic or unnaturally processed'; example sodium molybdate (commonly used in fertilizers), sodium selenite amongst others. Read More (1)

 ** Product (GO LEAN shakes) has been recalled & discontinued.**
6) Ben & Jerry-
September 2010
After receiving a complaint from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Ben & Jerry took immediate action and has phased out the use of the claim ‘All Natural’ on its ice cream and frozen yoghurt labels. Since their products contain a number of unnatural ingredients such as alkalised cocoa, hydrogenated vegetable oils, corn syrup and maltodextrin. Read More (1)
In essence, this proves and demonstrates manufacturers can be held accountable for the claims they make of their food labels. As a consumer you have rights, it is best to become aware of the food labelling standards within your region and take the appropriate steps to keep manufacturers accountable for the claims made on their food labels.

However, if you are 
concerned about consuming GMO and synthetic products, you can start a backyard garden, consume certified organic, fresh, whole foods and take steps to prepare your own foods/meals from scratch.  Whilst it is not practical for everyone to have a backyard garden or grow their own food, you could strike up a relationship with your produce seller or a farmer to find out about their farming practices and where their seeds and seedlings were sourced.

 As a consumer, it is best to read the ingredient list and nutrition facts before making the decision to purchase a product. Please refrain from relying on food label claims as the basis for food purchase. 

Here is an interesting article by Elaine Watson entitled 'Natural: The most meaningless on your food label'

No comments: