King Arthur Flour is the latest company to become the focus of a class action lawsuit for using ‘all-natural’ labeling on products that allegedly contain synthetic ingredients.
A California resident has filed a complaint focusing on 65 products that carry ‘all-natural’ labels, claiming that she did not receive the all-natural baking mixes she paid for and “has lost money as a result in the form of paying a premium for King Arthur’s Mixes because they were purportedly all natural rather than paying the lesser amount for non-natural alternatives.”
Tamar Davis Larsen’s complaint specifies several allegedly synthetic ingredients in the breakfast, dessert and bread mixes that were listed on labels despite all-natural claims, including ascorbic acid, disodium phosphate, potassium carbonate, and sodium acid pyrophosphate.
There has been a wave of lawsuits filed against firms using natural labeling claims in recent months, including a suit filed in a southern California district court against Kashi , and two class action lawsuits filed against ConAgra for marketing its Wesson range of cooking oils as ‘100% natural’ and ‘pure’ while they contain genetically modified ingredients.
Earlier this year, Snapple beat a lawsuit that was filed over its use of the word natural for products that contained high fructose corn syrup.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the labeling of most packaged food products, currently has no definition for the word natural, although it has said that a product is not natural if it contains synthetic or artificial ingredients.
Meanwhile food manufacturers continue to launch products carrying the claim that they are all-natural. According to market research organization Mintel, the percentage of global product launches carrying a ‘natural’ claim – including no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or additives –increased from 26 percent of new launches in 2005 to over a third in 2009.
The King Arthur Flour complaint is Larsen v. King Arthur Flour Co., Inc., No. 11-5495, filed in a northern California district court on November 14.