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Consumer fraud lawsuits proliferate over "all natural" labels

The use of the term "all natural" appears widely on food labels on the super market shelves in California and nationwide. The term, however, is elusive to define and has been the center piece of numerous class action lawsuits for consumer fraud over the past several years. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration embarked on a process trying to define the term. It has to date received about 7,600 comments from consumers, companies and other interested entities.

One area of great confusion raised by the all natural tag is that many consumers have been led to wrongly believe that the term means that there is no genetic engineering of organisms, and no hormones, pesticides or artificial ingredients. Due to the prior lack of involvement of the FDA in regulating the use of the term, consumers have been basically duped into attributing nonexistent benefits to their food products in the past. It has inflicted serious financial and other damages on consumers and others in the distribution path.

In general, therefore, it is not correct for a consumer to rely on the term all natural in defining the state of cereals or other foods that are eaten to restore the drug. This fact has spawned over 100 class action suits against manufacturers for using the all natural label alongside genetically engineered food objects, and the inclusion of pesticides and artificial ingredients. It should be noted that consumers have a much better chance of picking out true natural foods through the organic label.

Traditionally, the organic label has been regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That agency has prevented the use of the tag all natural when there are genetically modified foods in the food item. In general, however, a massive amount of foods under FDA regulation are comprised of genetic mutations created by applying radiation to the foods. The fear of getting involved in one of the many consumer fraud class actions that consumers have filed has actually caused some of the companies to stop using the all natural terminology in California and elsewhere.

Source: The New York Times, "Is Your Food Natural? F.D.A. to Weigh In", Anahad O'Connor, May 17, 2016

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