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“All natural” called into question in recent suits

Consumers call for official definition for food products

Recent lawsuits centering on some popular brands, which use the term “all natural” on their labels, have questioned what the term really means.

Several consumer suits filed against the makers of Wesson cooking oil, Kashi cereals and Skinnygirl margaritas claim the companies, which own those brands, are committing fraud by using “all natural” on the products’ labels. The suits say the products “all natural” ingredients are negated by the fact that the foods also include artificial and synthetic ingredients, and as a result, consumers are being misled.

But there currently is no official definition for “all natural,” and some legal experts blame the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for the recent onslaught of suits because it’s the agency’s responsibility to provide clarification on the term.  And even though it has received various requests to define “all natural,” the FDA has declined to do so. It claims it has other, more pressing matters to tend to and is restrained by limited resources.

Until the FDA does actually define “all natural,” plaintiffs and defendants only have its 20-year-old informal policy to fall back on—that “natural” means nothing artificial or synthetic.


Cathleen Flahardy

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